U.S. sends 119 Cuban migrants home as growing number take to sea

HAVANA – The U.S. Coast Guard announced late Tuesday that it had returned 119 Cuban migrants to their island after picking them up at sea.

The migrants, carried away in twelve operations in just three days in the Strait of South Florida from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys, were found in boats drifting offshore, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

A Good Samaritan rescued and reported a ship on January 1, 2021 that was about 25 miles west of Boot Key, Florida. A coast guard crew repatriated 119 people to Cuba on January 3, as the safety of life at sea was unsafe. US Coast Guard

Cuban state media said Tuesday’s repatriation was the largest in four years. Footage from the docks on the north coast of Cuba showed masked, white-clad health workers receiving migrants who had been brought in by boat by US authorities.

A growing group of migrants have been trying their luck at sea in recent months as Cuba’s economy is battered by mounting US sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, which is hindering international tourism, which is vital to forex trading on the Caribbean island has.

The dangerous crossing, which is made difficult by fast ocean currents, relentless sun and wind and shabby ships, has claimed the lives of many Cubans for decades.

Coast Guard figures show that 586 Cuban migrants attempted to illegally immigrate to the United States in the first three months of fiscal 2022 alone, a much faster clip than in 2021, when the Coast Guard returned 838 Cubans year-round.

The number of Cubans arriving at the US-Mexico border reached its highest level in a decade between October 2020 and May 2021, according to US immigration statistics, as many Cubans use overland routes to enter the United States. Continue reading

Cuba says it advocates legal, orderly, and safe migration and blames the United States for the rise in illegal migration. The country’s policies, including the Cold War-era embargo, are encouraging Cubans to risk their lives to leave the island.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said after unprecedented protests in Cuba last year that Cubans leaving the island “will not come to the United States.”

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