16 more Cuban migrants caught off the Florida Keys — they were sent back

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The Coast Guard stopped yet another group of people from Cuba off the Florida Keys trying to migrate to the United States this week.

The interdiction of the 16 migrants Wednesday comes two days after the agency returned 36 people to Cuba. Crews had stopped them on separate occasions off the island chain late last week.

The group caught Wednesday was about five miles off Boot Key Harbor in the Middle Florida Keys, according to a Coast Guard press release issued Friday.

They were in a makeshift wooden boat with a blue tarp attached to it, a photo accompanying the press release shows.

A boater saw the unseaworthy craft and reported it to the Coast Guard around 10 a.m. that day. A Coast Guard crew from Station Islamorada and a Customs Air and Marine Operations crew met up with the vessel. One passenger was given first aid because of a “superficial leg injury,” according to the press release.

The Coast Guard placed the people on board the Cutter Isaac Mayo, which returned them to Cuba on Thursday.

U.S. immigration officials track migration attempts by the fiscal year, beginning and ending Oct. 1, and this was a busy one for the Coast Guard stationed in the Keys. While only 49 people were caught at sea off South Florida in all of fiscal year 2020, almost 830 have been caught with a week left to go this year, according to the Coast Guard.

Experts on Cuba cite deteriorating economic, health and political conditions within the island nation as contributing factors behind so many people being willing to make the dangerous maritime journey across the Florida Straits recently.

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