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Dry Tortugas National Park will reopen Sunday after near week-long closure involving refugees

USCG 1.jpg
United States Coast Guard
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Special to WGCU
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said all landed migrants were removed from Dry Tortugas National Park Wednesday in coordination with Homeland Security Task Force Southeast and the National Park Service.

 Dry Tortugas National Park will reopen to public access at 8 a.m. Sunday after a nearly weeklong closure prompted by an influx of hundreds of refugees, mainly from Cuba.

 The Homeland Security Task Force - Southeast  said they stopped or removed more than 1,300 refugees at sea or from Dry Tortugas National Park and other areas of the Florida Keys since Dec. 30. National Parks Service officials made the decision to close the park so the refugees could be dealt with.

REFUGEE INFLUX: What happened at Dry Tortugas National Park and in the Florida Keys?

aerial view of Dry Tortugas National Park
Photo by Enid Magari
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Special to WGCU
On January 2 at 8 am, Dry Tortugas National Park will temporarily close to public access 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. Enid Magari, a former resident of Cooper City, Florida, was camping on Dry Tortugas when some of the migrants landed, and got footage of some of those who made the landing.

“The refugees made their way to the park and other areas in the Keys from December 30 through Jan. 2, Lt. Cmdr. John William Beal, Public Affairs Officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District, said Thursday morning.”

Beal confirmed that all landed refugees were removed Wednesday evening from Dry Tortugas National Park in coordination with Homeland Security Task Force Southeast and the National Park Service.

"337 migrants removed from Dry Tortugas NP are onboard USCG Cutter Maple, a 225’ buoy tender, for transfer ashore to Key West (Thursday)," Beal said in a release to media.

Dry Tortugas National Park, a group of seven islands 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of Key West, remained closed to visitors Wednesday as the U.S. evacuated refugees who came ashore there earlier in the week. Normally, about 255 tourists a day arrive by boat and seaplane to tour the islands and Fort Jefferson, which was built 160 years ago. Officials did not know when it would reopen.

The park's reopening will include overnight camping. Concession-operated ferry and seaplane services will resume when the park reopens, but visitors are advised to check concessions websites or call businesses directly for trip status and availability.

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