Coast Guard returns 106 migrants to Cuba after most were stopped off the Florida Keys

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The U.S. Coast Guard sent 106 people back to Cuba on Monday after stopping most of them off the Florida Keys last week as the number of Cubans fleeing poverty and oppression on the island surpassed the Mariel exodus of 1980.

U.S. government data revealed last week that more than 140,000 Cubans were detained at U.S. borders between October last year and May.

Seven migrant stops from Thursday to Sunday — including several rescues — resulted in their return to Cuba, the agency said in a news release.

On Thursday, a Coast Guard crew spotted a “rustic vessel” seven miles south of Islamorada at 2:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., crews rescued people clinging to the hull of an overturned boat 40 miles south of Marathon and a different group that was on a vessel taking on water 40 miles south of Sugarloaf Key.

Another rescue happened Friday when a boater picked up people in the water after their “rustic” boat was disabled near the Yucatán Pass, the water passage between Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and western Cuba.

On Saturday, crews detected two more “rustic vessels.” The first was found at 6 a.m. five miles south of Marquesas Key and the second was discovered at 7:30 a.m. about 15 miles south of Boca Chica. And on Sunday, crews located yet another rustic boat at 6 a.m. nearly 20 miles south of Islamorada.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention, according to the agency.

“Weather in the Caribbean Sea is unpredictable,” Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, a Coast Guard District 7 spokesman, said in the release. “It can turn any calm voyage deadly in an instant.”

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami aircrew alerted Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders of a rustic vessel taking on water about 40 miles south of Sugarloaf Key, Florida on June 23, 2022. The people were repatriated to Cuba on June 27.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami aircrew alerted Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders of a rustic vessel taking on water about 40 miles south of Sugarloaf Key, Florida on June 23, 2022. The people were repatriated to Cuba on June 27.

READ MORE: Bigger than Mariel: 140,000 Cubans have arrived at U.S. borders since October

The Coast Guard tallies the number of migrants detained at sea by fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 of the following year. Since Oct. 1 of last year, Coast Guard crews have stopped 2,900 Cubans compared to:

  • 838 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2021

  • 49 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2020

  • 313 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2019

  • 259 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2018

  • 1,468 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2017

  • 5,396 Cuban migrants in Fiscal Year 2016

Coast Guard returns 46 to Cuba on Saturday

The Coast Guard repatriated 47 people to Cuba on Saturday following three stops off the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, the agency said a news release.

READ MORE: Lost contact with migrant relatives sailing to Florida? Here’s how to get their status

On Wednesday, crews spotted a rustic boat close to midnight 30 miles southeast of Anguilla Cay, Bahamas. And on Thursday, crews detected two more vessels in similar conditions near Long Key. At 6:30 a.m., they found the first one three miles south of Long Key, and they found the second at 3 p.m. about 50 miles south.

A U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada rescue crew alerted Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders of this rustic vessel about three miles south of Long Key, Florida, June 24, 2022. The people were repatriated on June 25.
A U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada rescue crew alerted Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders of this rustic vessel about three miles south of Long Key, Florida, June 24, 2022. The people were repatriated on June 25.

The Coast Guard sent 190 people back to Haiti and Cuba on Thursday after stopping them off a Haitian island and the Florida Keys.

READ MORE: U.S. Coast Guard returns 190 migrants after stopping them off the Florida Keys, Haiti

The agency also reported the deaths of two migrants whose bodies were found at sea last week. Since Oct. 1, the agency has recorded 39 confirmed deaths from people migrating on boats — 17 more than the last two fiscal years combined, according to the Coast Guard.

“Don’t take to the seas in unsafe, overloaded, rustic vessels without safety equipment or life jackets,” Lt. Connor Ives from the Coast Guard District Seven, said in the release. “The Florida Straits is unpredictable and the weather can turn a voyage deadly in an instant.”

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