Coast Guard stops a total of 36 migrants off Keys and Bahamas

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The Coast Guard stopped a total of 36 Cuban migrants at sea since Thursday off the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

The people were taken back to Cuba Monday on board the Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans, the agency said in a press release.

The first group was spotted by a boater around 10 a.m. last Thursday in a 20-foot makeshift boat — called “chugs” by the Coast Guard — about 23 miles off Islamorada. Petty Officer Nicole Groll said 14 people were on the vessel.

A Coast Guard law enforcement crew from Station Islamorada took them to the Raymond Evans, according to the press release.

Later that day, around 3:30 p.m., a fishing boat crew radioed to the Coast Guard the sighting of another 20-foot chug, this time about 30 miles off Islamorada. Groll said there were 12 people on board that boat. A Station Islamorada crew also took them to the Raymond Evans, according to the Coast Guard.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, a tanker ship crew spotted a nine-foot raft floating about 24 miles off Cay Sal, Bahamas. The tanker crew took the people on board the ship, and the Raymond Evans picked them up. One person had to be flown to a South Florida hospital for medical reasons, the press release states.

Finally, around 10 a.m. Friday, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations airplane crew reported to the Coast Guard a migrant raft floating about 18 miles off Elbow Cay in the Bahamas. They, too, were taken to the awaiting Raymond Evans.

Groll said the number of people on the two latter-mentioned vessels was not immediately available.

The Coast Guard and other federal agencies enforcing immigration law track immigration attempts by the fiscal year, which runs from October to October. And this year has been extremely busy compared to recent years.

With a few weeks remaining, the Coast Guard stopped 813 people from Cuba at sea trying to make the dangerous journey across the Florida Straits. In all of fiscal year 2020, only 49 people were caught making the attempt.

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