US Coast Guard returns 273 migrants intercepted off Florida Coast to Cuba
By Chris Boyette, CNN
The US Coast Guard says it repatriated 273 Cuban migrants Sunday after intercepting a number of boats off the Florida coast on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The migrants were returned to Cuba aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk, according to a news release.
“The Coast Guard continues to interdict and rescue migrants from grossly overloaded, unseaworthy vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Beal of Coast Guard District Seven.
“These illegal voyages are always dangerous and often deadly. We are working closely with partner agencies to save lives and prevent illegal entry to the United States via our southeast maritime border,” Beal said.
The migrants were intercepted on several occasions on December 31, 2022 and January 1, 2023, the release said.
One of the vessels had capsized when a “good Samaritan” alerted the Coast Guard to its presence in waters about 35 miles north of Havana, it said.
According to the Coast Guard, once the migrants were aboard a Coast Guard cutter, they received food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.
The Coast Guard said its crews interdicted 4,795 Cubans since October 1, 2022, compared to 6,182 Cuban migrants in all of fiscal year 2022, 838 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2021 and 49 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2020.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order activating the state’s National Guard and directing law enforcement and other state agencies to provide resources to support local governments responding to the influx of migrants, his office said in a news release.
Last week, the National Park Service announced it was temporarily closing Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys to the public due to an influx of migrants from Cuba.
In a news release, the service said the park would be closed for several days “while law enforcement and medical personnel evaluate, provide care for and coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park over the past couple of days.”
The park is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Key West and is only accessibly by boat or seaplane.
“Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park,” the park service said.
The park’s closure “is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to attend to the migrants,” the park service said.
The agency announced Sunday the park would reopen at 8 a.m. Monday January 9.
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CNN’s Keith Allen, Jamiel Lynch, Shawn Nottingham, Melissa Alonso and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.