273 Cubans Stopped at Sea After Florida Patrols Increase

Around 700 migrants arrived in the Keys over New Year's weekend
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 2, 2023 12:11 PM CST
Updated Jan 9, 2023 5:55 PM CST
National Park Closed After 300 Migrants Land
An aerial view of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.   (AP Photo/Key West Citizen, Rob O'Neal, File)
UPDATE Jan 9, 2023 5:55 PM CST

The US Coast Guard repatriated 273 migrants to Matanzas, Cuba, over the weekend following interdictions off the Florida Keys. More than 4,400 migrants from Cuba and Haiti have made their way by boat to the state since August, including 700 who arrived in the Keys over New Year's weekend, officials said. That led Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday to mobilize the Florida National Guard. The governor said in a statement Friday that the state will deploy airplanes, helicopters, and marine patrols "to support water interdictions and ensure the safety of migrants attempting to reach Florida through the Florida Straits," the AP reports. Because Washington and Havana do not have diplomatic ties, it is problematic for the US government to send Cubans back once they arrive in Florida, but those who are stopped at sea can be taken back.

Jan 2, 2023 12:11 PM CST

A US national park comprising a cluster of uninhabited islands in the Florida Keys was closed Monday after 300 migrants made 10 landings there over the weekend, officials said. Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, was closed so law enforcement and medical personnel could evaluate the migrants before moving them to Key West, the park tweeted. "The closure, which is expected to last several days, is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to attend to the migrants," park officials said in their statement.

US Customs and Border Protection said in at least 88 migrants were from Cuba, the AP reports. "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 said in a news release, per CBS. "Park first responders provide food, water, and basic medical attention until the Department of Homeland Security arrives and takes the lead." The national park is at the southern tip of the continental US and attracts scuba divers and snorkelers for its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish and shipwrecks.

(Read more Florida Keys stories.)

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