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Unusually large group of Cuban migrants lands in Marquesas Keys
BY ABEL FERNÁNDEZ
abfernandez@elnuevoherald.com

An unusally large group of Cuban migrants landed in the Keys this week
at Marquesas Keys, about 20 miles west of Key West.

The group of 41 — 30 men, 10 women and a minor — landed Tuesday. They
claimed to have departed from Cojímar, east of Havana, on Monday aboard
a single engine fishing vessel that was not recoverable, according to
U.S. and Border Patrol (CBP).

All the migrants were in good and were transferred to the CBP
Station in Marathon, where they were processed and turned over to Church
World Services, CBP said in a statement.

On Tuesday, CBP agents were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard “of a
maritime smuggling event involving forty-one Cuban nationals … that
made landfall at Marquesas Keys, Florida,” the statement said.

According to a report by Spanish-language channel Telemundo 51, Cuban
fisherman Omar Pérez was the first one to spot the migrants and
contacted the authorities.

A video recorded with a shows the group of Cubans on the edge
of a mangrove, while asking “Llamen a Telemundo” (call Telemundo).

Pérez said that the boat where the Cubans traveled apparently was
stranded near the coastline and they just jumped into the water and swam
to shore, Telemundo reported.

Although the landings of Cuban rafters in South Florida are not unusual,
what is striking in this case is the large size of the group.

Since the reestablishment of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, there
has been an increase in attempts by Cuban migrants to reach South
Florida, according to the Coast Guard. Nearly 3,000 Cubans attempted to
leave the island by sea between October 2015 and April of this year.

Another group of nine rafters, eight adults and one minor, also arrived
in Florida on Tuesday from Cárdenas, in the province of Matanzas, after
spending seven days at sea. A video recorded with a cell phone captured
the moment when the makeshift boat with a sail and three rows made
landfall and the rafters jumped ashore screaming, hugging and crying.

According to several reports, there were initially about 25 people in
the group, but they split up after reaching an undisclosed part of the
Keys. As of Wednesday, the whereabouts of the other 16 migrants were
unknown and some suggested they could have returned to Cuba.

According to statements made by the nine migrants to Telemundo 51,
during the seven-day journey through the Florida Straits, they were
flogged by inclement weather and sometimes even thought they would not
make it.

In a separate landing, nine Cubans arrived on Craig Key Monday morning
in a steel-hulled vessel powered by what appeared to be a six-cylinder
Ford gasoline engine, Islamorada resident Carmen Alex told FLKeysNews.com.

The migrants who landed on Craig Key, mile marker 73.5, said theirs was
a nine-day journey at sea, according to Alex. Hoffner said the group
included eight men and one woman. Witnesses provided them with water and
cash, Alex told FLKeywsNews.com.

On Sunday, two groups of Cubans, 23 in all, arrived in the Keys. Eight
arrived in Key Largo, and 15 arrived on Windley Key, FLKeysNews reported.

In the first 11 months of fiscal year 2016 more than 50,000 Cubans have
arrived in the U.S., a 25 percent increase over the previous year.
However, most of them entered the country across the southern Mexican
border.

Cubans who touch American soil can usually stay under the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy, while those who are intercepted at sea are
usually returned to Cuba.

ABEL FERNÁNDEZ IS ON TWITTER @ABELFGLEZ

Source: Group of 41 Cuban migrants land in Marquesas Keys | Miami Herald

www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article121185803.html

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