The US Coast Guard returns to Cuba 273 migrants intercepted off the coast of Florida

(CNN) — The US Coast Guard said Sunday it had repatriated 273 Cuban immigrants after intercepting several ships off the Florida coast on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The immigrants were returned to Cuba aboard the Mohawk Coast Guard, according to a press release.

“The Coast Guard continues to intercept and rescue migrants from heavily overloaded and unseaworthy vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Beal of Coast Guard District Seven.

“These illegal trips are always dangerous and often deadly. We are working closely with partner agencies to save lives and prevent illegal entry into the United States through our southeast maritime border,” Beal said.

The immigrants were intercepted on several occasions on December 31, 2022 and January 1, 2023, according to the statement.

Chaos in Florida due to the massive arrival of Cuban migrants 2:14

One of the boats had capsized when a “good Samaritan” alerted the Coast Guard to its presence in waters about 35 miles north of Havana, he said.

According to the Coast Guard, once the migrants boarded a Coast Guard patrol boat, they received food, water, shelter and basic medical care.

The Coast Guard said its crews interdicted 4,795 Cubans since Oct. 1, 2022, compared to 6,182 Cuban immigrants in all of fiscal year 2022, 838 Cuban immigrants in fiscal 2021 and 49 Cuban immigrants in fiscal 2020.

On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order activating the state’s National Guard and directing law enforcement and other state agencies to provide resources to support local governments responding to the influx of immigrants, his office said in a news release.

Last week, the National Park Service announced it was temporarily closing Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys to the public due to an influx of immigrants from Cuba.

In a news release, the service said the park would be closed for several days “while police and medical personnel assess, provide care, and coordinate transportation to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who have arrived at the park in the past two days.” .

The park is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.

“As with other parts of the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park,” the park service said.

The park closure “is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff due to the resources and space needed to care for migrants,” the park service said.

The agency announced on sunday that the park would reopen at 8 am on Monday, January 9.

CNN’s Keith Allen, Jamiel Lynch, Shawn Nottingham, Melissa Alonso and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.

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