US increases air-sea patrols to capture Cuban rafters

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One of the boats in which the Cuban rafters traveled in August. (Twitter/@USBPChiefMIP)

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES — The U.S. Embassy in Cuba warned Sunday against increasing surveillance in the Florida Straits amid the relentless flow of people trying to reach the United States via that route.

“The Homeland Security Joint Task Force has strengthened its operational position to deal with a recent increase in irregular maritime migration. Agencies are increasing patrols and law enforcement by land, air and sea, day and night,” the institution said on Twitter.

“Persons who attempt to enter the country illegally by sea will be intercepted and must wait to be repatriated to their country of origin, or to the country from which they departed, in accordance with the laws, policies and obligations of the international treaties of the United States,” he added in a second message.

The warnings were issued a day after Border Patrol arrested 42 Cuban migrants off the coast of Florida. Walter N. Slossar, senior corps agent in the Miami sector, explained that 21 rafters made landfall in the Dry Tortugas and another 21 arrived in Islamorada.

That same Saturday, the coast guard suspended the search for a Cuban who disappeared in Islamorada after overturning a boat. With him were 20 people who were rescued and will be repatriated to Cuba, and four others who managed to make landfall.

Operations of this type do not cease, under any circumstances. On Friday, September 2, the Coast Guard repatriated another 37 people from the island, and during the third week of August, the Border Patrol intercepted 96 Cuban rafters.

In total, from October 1, 2021 to last Friday, 5,113 Cubans were intercepted. This figure is close to that of 2016, the year of the last major migration crisis. During this period, 5,396 have arrived in the United States, a number that could be exceeded by the end of September, which will mark the end of this financial year.

Over the past five years, the number of Cubans intercepted at sea by U.S. authorities has gradually declined, especially during the pandemic. In 2017, 1,468 arrived, in 2018 there were 259; in 2019, 313; in 2020, 49 and in 2021, 838.

The intention to increase surveillance in the area was communicated this Friday by the Southeast National Security Task Force in a document stating that the goal is to prevent loss of life at sea.

“The Miami Branch of the U.S. Border Patrol is committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners as part of a whole-of-government effort to prepare for and respond to any potential increases irregular maritime migration or border security threats in Florida. “Slosar said.

Additionally, Brendan C. McPherson, department director and commander of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, noted that “illegal maritime travel in the Caribbean is always dangerous and often deadly.”

“Smugglers exploit vulnerable migrants for profit while putting their lives at risk on board overcrowded and unseaworthy boats. These dangerous journeys should not be attempted. Safe, legal and orderly migration saves lives,” he added.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

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