Coast Guard sends 45 migrants back to Cuba after boats spotted near Florida Keys

The Coast Guard intercepted four Cuban migrant vessels in recent days

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American officials sent dozens of migrants back to Cuba Sunday after the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted four different vessels last week.

Each of the boats were in waters near the Florida Keys and reported to officials by onlookers.

"The possibility of being stopped by Coast Guard crews while illegally migrating through the Caribbean Sea is high," Lt. Cmdr. Mark Cobb of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District said in a statement. "No one should risk their lives on unsafe rustic vessels in unpredictable seas."

The first boat was found Wednesday night 12 miles off the coast of Boot Key, the Coast Guard said. The rest were reported Friday, with one boat spotted 17 miles off of Long Key at approximately 11:45 a.m. and two off the coast of Big Pine Key at around noon, one 17 miles away and one 22 miles away.

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Vessel with Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard

Vessel with Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard (U.S. Coast Guard)

Officials described each boat as a "rustic vessel."

On Sunday, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton brought a total of 45 migrants from those vessels back to Cuba. The Coast Guard said that all migrants aboard Coast Guard cutters get "food, water, shelter and basic medical attention."

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Vessel used by Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard

Vessel used by Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard (U.S. Coast Guard)

According to the Coast Guard, this makes 2,464 Cubans Coast Guard crews have interdicted since Oct. 1, 2021, by far the highest total since Fiscal Year 2016, which had a total of 5,396. 

Vessel with Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard

Vessel with Cuban migrants intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard (U.S. Coast Guard)

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By comparison, the Coast Guard interdicted 1,468 Cuban migrants in FY 2017, 259 in FY 2018, 313 in FY 2019, 49 in FY 2020, and 838 in FY 2021.

This is in line with a similar trend in rising numbers of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced last week that May saw a record number of 239,416 encounters with migrants.