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U.S. Coast Guard stops 273 refugees from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3; all returned to Cuba Sunday

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Station Marathon's crew
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Special to WGCU
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders received a notification of a migrant vessel about four miles south of Marathon, Florida, Jan. 3. The people were repatriated to Cuba on Jan. 8.

Nearly 300 Cuban refugees who were stopped short of Florida's coast from Dec. 31 through Jan. 3 were repatriated Sunday to the island nation.

The refugees were stopped by the Coast Guard after they were spotted in a number of vessels, beginning around 4 p.m. Dec. 31 and continuing until Jan. 3, in various areas off the Florida Keys including southwest of Marquesas Keys, south of Key Colony Beach, south of Duck Key, south of the Seven Mile Bridge, south of Islamorada, south of Key West, south of Marathon and about 35 miles north of Havana, Cuba.

A press release from U.S. Coast Guard Sunday said the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk returned 273 refugees to Matanzas, Cuba, about 60 miles east of Havana.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Station Islamorada's crew
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Special to WGCU
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders received a notification of a migrant vessel about seven miles south of Big Pine Key, Florida, Jan. 1. The people were repatriated to Cuba on Sunday.

The coast Guard said family members in the United States inquiring about possible family members interdicted at sea should contact their local representative. 

“The Coast Guard continues to interdict and rescue migrants from grossly overloaded, unseaworthy vessels," said Lt. Cmdr. John Beal, 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. Those interdicted at sea will be repatriated.”

The release said that since Oct. 1, 2022, Coast Guard crews interdicted 4,795 Cubans compared to: 

  • 6,182 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2022
  • 838 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2021
  • 49 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2020
  • 313 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2019
  • 259 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2018
  • 1,468 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2017
  • 5,396 Cuban Migrants in Fiscal Year 2016
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U.S. Coast Guard
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Special to WGCU
The U.S. Coast Guard stops a craft containing Cuban refugees. The refugees were later returned to Cuba

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. 

In related news, the Florida News Service reported that Governor Ron DeSantis is activating the Florida National Guard to help deal with the sudden and dramatic spike in migrants flooding the Keys.

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis activated the National Guard to support local law enforcement and state agencies in the Florida Keys, which have been overwhelmed in the past week by the arrival of hundreds of mostly Cuban and Haitian migrants by sea. DeSantis used the crisis to criticize Biden for what he called the Administration's lax response.

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