Cuban migrant found in Styrofoam boat still with Coast Guard


A Cuban migrant who ostensibly floated at sea in the Florida Straits for 25 days aboard a seven-foot makeshift Styrofoam boat remained aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel Wednesday morning as American officials weighed whether to return him to Cuba or let him come ashore for hospital care.

Marilyn Fajardo, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami, said her agency cannot provide any details on the migrant until a decision is made. But she noted that, in general, any migrants rescued at sea are given medical attention, food, water and clothing after they arrive on a cutter.

The case has drawn worldwide attention because of the circumstances and questions surrounding the voyage from Cuba and how the man managed to survive -- perhaps without enough or any food and water for more than three weeks.

Yanik Fenton, a spokeswoman for Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said her office constantly receives calls from family members in South Florida and other parts of the country who are awaiting arrivals from Cuba, but that in this case no one has called to claim the Styrofoam boat migrant.

Juan A. Muñoz Torres, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, provided a few more details on the migrant, indicating that, despite having been on the boat exposed to the elements, he did not appear to be in critical condition.

``Apparently, he did not require hospitalization,'' Muñoz said Wednesday by telephone from his office in Washington. ``He was dehydrated, but he was provided with an IV by personnel on the cutter.''

If the migrant does not need emergency hospital care, then it's possible he might be sent back to Cuba.

In general, under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy Cuban migrants intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba -- unless they require emergency hospital care on land or potentially qualify for resettlement in a third country.

If a migrant requires hospital care, he or she is taken ashore and allowed to stay. After a year, the person can apply for a green card, like all Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil.

The case of the Stryfoam boat migrant unfolded when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection surveillance aircraft patrolling the Florida Straits spotted the makeshift boat some 51 miles south of Marathon.

On closer inspection, the plane crew discovered a man aboard the Styrofoam boat.

A Customs press statement on the case said the migrant ``apparently had floated in the Caribbean Sea for 25 days.'' But the press release also quoted the migrant as saying, after being rescued, that he had left from the Havana area on June 20.

Muñoz said the migrant was spotted sometime between Monday and Tuesday, which would make it either 23 or 24 days at sea.

``While conducting routine border security patrol, the crew of a CBP surveillance aircraft detected a small vessel approximately 51 miles south of Marathon, Fla.,'' the CBP statement said. ``Upon close examination of the vessel, it was determined that there was one individual aboard and that it appeared to be custom built out of Styrofoam, approximately seven feet long.''

CBP summoned the U.S. Coast Guard to rescue the migrant. The surveillance aircraft then orbited overhead for about 3 ½ hours, directing the Coast Guard to the vessel.

``Once the Coast Guard vessel arrived on scene, they transferred the castaway to their ship,'' the Customs statement said. ``The man was severely dehydrated and said he left the Havana, Cuba, area on June 20.'' ... ofoam.html