Florida Keys a destination for almost 470 Cuban and Haitian migrants the past week

David Goodhue
Fri, August 12, 2022 at 5:36 PM

On Friday, two groups of Cuban migrants arrived in the Florida Keys — one in the Marquesas off Key West, and the other on Stock Island, also in the Lower Keys. In all, 24 people made landfall, said Adam Hoffner, division chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami operations.

Over the past week, 470 people from Cuba and Haiti reached the Keys.

A Cuban migrant boat is moored to a sea wall in Stock Island in the Lower Florida Keys Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

The largest group was the roughly 315 people from Haiti who arrived off the exclusive Ocean Reef resort on Saturday in an overloaded sailboat. On Monday, another 123 Haitians arrived off the coast of the Middle Keys city of Marathon. Of those people, 109 swam to shore and were taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol, and 14 stayed on the boat and were placed on a Coast Guard cutter to be taken back to Haiti.

On Wednesday, the Border Patrol said 16 people from Cuba arrived in a homemade boat with “Libertad” written on the hull. The agency said in a statement on Twitter that the landing is under investigation, and one “suspected smuggler” was taken into custody by agents.

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On Thursday, a group of 19 people arrived in Marathon.

“The migrants will be processed for removal proceedings,” said Walter Slosar, the Border Patrol’s chief patrol agent for its Miami operations.

Maritime migration from Cuba is at its highest levels in almost seven years. In Haiti, it’s at the highest in two decades. Both nations are experiencing deteriorating political and economic conditions.

Haitians are also fleeing an increase in gang warfare that has made living in the country extremely dangerous. Since the beginning of October, the U.S. Coast Guard said it has intercepted 6,812 people from Haiti at sea attempting to migrate to South Florida.

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In that same span, the agency has stopped 3,963 Cubans on boats along the Florida Straits trying to reach the United States.