The U.S. Coast Guard has stopped at sea more than 3,000 Cuban migrants fleeing deteriorating economic, safety and political conditions in the island nation who were heading to the coast of Florida since October — more than the last five fiscal years combined, according to the agency.
The staggering figure comes as the Coast Guard announced it returned 64 migrants to Cuba on Sunday after locating them in four separate boats off the Florida Keys in less than 48 hours.
A Coast Guard crew spotted a “rustic vessel” at 9 p.m. Thursday 25 miles south of Key West. Two and a half hours later, the same crew detected another boat in similar conditions 30 miles south of Key West.
On Friday, civilians notified authorities of two migrant vessels. The first one was found at 8:15 a.m. 14 miles south of Boot Key; the second at 5:30 p.m. 40 miles south of Key West.
“Migrating illegally in makeshift vessels, especially without life jackets or safety equipment, is incredibly dangerous,” Lt. Paul Puddington of Coast Guard’s District Seven said Sunday in a news release. “Please, for your own safety, don’t take to the sea.”
More than 140,000 Cubans have been detained at U.S. borders between October and May, surpassing the Mariel exodus of 1980 when 125,000 Cubans departed from the Port of Mariel near Havana between April and October of that year.
The Coast Guard tallies the number of migrants detained at sea by fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 of the following year. Since Oct. 1 of last year, Coast Guard crews have stopped 3,067 Cubans compared with:
— 838 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2021
— 49 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2020
— 313 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2019
— 259 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2018
— 1,468 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2017
— 5,396 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2016
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