Friday, October 7, 2022

Coast Guard: 9 Cuban Migrants Die, 18 Rescued off Florida

By on March 19, 2016

MIAMI – Nine Cuban migrants died at sea and 18 others were rescued by a cruise ship after their 30-foot boat was found about 130 miles from the Florida coast, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The migrants were severely dehydrated when they were found Friday and said they had been at sea 22 days. The bodies of those who didn’t make it were placed overboard, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney. The survivors were in bad condition.

“They could barely walk off the vessel itself,” Barney said. “They were weak and they were shaking.”

The rescue by the Royal Caribbean ship took place about 130 miles west of Marco Island in southwest Florida. The migrants were in a “rustic” boat that was about 30-feet long, Barney said.

They were found by the cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas. Royal Caribbean reported the event to the Coast Guard and made the decision to bring the migrants to its next port of call, Cozumel, Mexico.

The rescue comes as President Barack Obama travels to Cuba to meet with President Raul Castro during a 2½-day visit that begins Sunday. The visit is part of Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. While the U.S. has eased travel restrictions to the island Cuba, many Cubans still risk their lives to reach the United States.

“The Coast Guard has observed a steady increase in illegal maritime migration attempts from Cuba to the southeastern U.S. since the U.S. announcement of normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. Last month, 269 Cuban migrants attempted to reach U.S. shores and about 2,420 have tried to reach the United States by sea since last October.

On the same day Royal Caribbean rescued the group it found, the Coast Guard returned 42 other migrants to Cuba after they were picked up in the Florida Straits in two separate incidents earlier in the week.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents apprehended 11 undocumented Cuban immigrants after landing in Mona Island.   

“We issue a concerned warning on the danger of traversing the Mona Passage with the hope of avoiding an unfortunate event during this coming Easter holiday season,”  Ramiro Cerrillo, Ramey Sector chief patrol agent, stated Friday. “Migrants have drowned as smugglers have forced them to swim to the shore.”

Park Rangers from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources contacted the Border Patrol Station, indicating the landing of the 10 males and 1 female.

The U.S. Coast Guard transported the group to the Mayagüez port where Border Patrol agents assumed custody for screening and processing.

On March 7, a group of 12 Cubans, including a pregnant female reached Mona. During fiscal year 2016, the Ramey Border Patrol Sector has apprehended 143 Cuban migrants.

The Associated Press

Caribbean Business contributed to this report.

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