Nearly 100 Cuban migrants returned to homeland amid continued flight

The Coast Guard took 94 Cuban migrants back to their homeland Saturday amid continued flight from the island and an increased number of interdictions off Florida, the agency said Sunday.

The Coast Guard said the migrants were apprehended in one of four interdictions of unstable vessels headed to the U.S.

“Taking to the sea on overloaded, rustic vessels is dangerous and unsafe,” Lt. Connor Ives, a Coast Guard Atlantic district law enforcement officer, said in the agency’s statement.

The cutter Paul Clark was used to return the migrants to Cuba, the agency said.

Boats loaded with migrants were discovered last Monday 12 miles south of Elbow Cay, Bahamas; Tuesday, 25 miles northeast of Cay Sal, Bahamas, and again 30 miles south of Islamorada, Florida; and Wednesday, 10 miles south of Crocker Reef, Florida, the Coast Guard said.

The migrants are part of a steady stream of Cubans seeking refugee status in the U.S. in hard economic times in their homeland.

WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, said the U.S. embargo aggravates Cuba’s woeful, inflation-wracked economy, which it said has produced a humanitarian crisis.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, responding to the rising number of Cubans discovered in “dangerous and unforgiving” conditions at sea, last year drew a red line.

“Any migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of their nationality, will not be permitted to enter the United States,” he said in July 2021.

Traditional U.S. policy allowing Cubans who make it to dry land in the U.S. to apply for legal status was ended under President Donald Trump, but the government still processes applications for asylum by migrants who reach the border in Mexico.

The numbers of Cubans seeking to resettle in the U.S. continue to grow. Travel by land, through Latin America continental routes, has produced record numbers. From January to July, U.S. authorities stopped Cuban migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border 155,000 times, more than six times the number in the same period last year.

The Coast Guard said it carried out 6,182 interdictions of Cuban migrants in the fiscal year that ended in September, the most in at least seven years. So far this month, the interdiction figure for Cubans on the water and the coastline, 921, is more than in all of fiscal year 2021, when there 838.

Cuban migrants joined Venezuelans and Nicaraguans in pushing the number of migrants stopped at the southwest border to a new high of nearly 2.8 million for the 2022 fiscal year.

Courtney Brogle contributed.

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