Miami: The US Coast Guard has said it has repatriated 32 Cubans discovered off the coast of southern Florida aboard two vessels seeking to land on American soil.
On October 18, the cruise ship Disney Magic notified the Coast Guard of a "15-foot rustic vessel" with 12 Cubans aboard located southwest of Key West, the southernmost point of Florida, the Coast Guard said in a statement, yesterday. A Coast Guard cutter intercepted the migrants.
Two days later, a Coast Guard airplane on routine patrol spotted another "rustic vessel" south of Marathon, another one of the Florida Keys, located a mere 145 kilometres off the coast of Cuba.
A Coast Guard boat that was sent out intercepted the vessel and found 20 Cuban migrants aboard.
"Migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States by boat often travel aboard dangerously overloaded and ill-equipped vessels," said Captain Brendan McPherson, a senior Coast Guard district official.
Once aboard the Coast Guard ships, all the migrants received food, water, and basic medical attention, the statement read.
Under US policy known as "dry feet/wet feet," Cubans intercepted on the high seas are repatriated to Cuba. However, those who manage to land on US soil are automatically allowed to enter the country and can pursue a residency permit after a year, which then allows them to apply for citizenship five years later.
Over the summer, the US Coast Guard repatriated nearly 100 Cubans who boarded flimsy rafts and defied strong ocean currents and shark-infested waters in their attempt to reach Florida, home to more than one million Cubans.