Wave of 500 migrants invade Florida Keys: Dry Tortugas National Park is CLOSED as boatloads arrive from Cuba amid rising inflation and food shortages
- Hundreds of migrants fled Cuba by boat to the Florida Keys over the weekend
- Cuba is struggling with high inflation, economic turmoil and food shortages
- Dry Tortugas National Park officials closed the park to deal with migrants
- South Florida has seen an escalation of migrants over the past decade
At least 500 migrants have arrived in small boats along the Florida Keys in recent days in what the local sheriff’s office Monday described as a “crisis.”
Economic turmoil, food shortages and rising inflation in Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean are fueling the recent wave of migration.
Over the weekend, 300 migrants arrived in sparsely populated Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West.
Separately, 160 migrants arrived by boats in other parts of the Florida Keys over the New Year’s weekend, officials said.
On Monday, 30 people were found in two new migrant groups in the Middle Keys.
The park was closed to allow law enforcement and medical personnel to examine the group before relocating them to Key West, the park tweeted.
About 300 migrants from Cuba arrived in the Florida Keys over the weekend. An empty raft was seen stranded on Sombrero Beach
Cuba is struggling with high inflation, economic turmoil and food shortages
In a press release, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay criticized the federal response to the surge in migrant arrivals, saying they were straining local resources.
The U.S. Border Patrol told the sheriff’s office that the federal response to some of the arriving migrants may have to wait a day, the release said.
“The arrival of fugitives requires a lot of resources from the sheriff’s office as we help our federal law enforcement partners ensure migrants are in good health and safety,” said Ramsay, whose jurisdiction includes the Florida Keys.
“This demonstrates the lack of a federal government work plan to address a foreseeable mass migration problem.”
Dry Tortugas National Park officials said they expected it to remain closed for several days because of the space and resources needed to care for the migrants.
Located at the southern tip of the continental US, the national park draws divers and snorkelers for its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish, and shipwrecks.
“Like elsewhere in 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 National Park Service said in a press release.
South Florida has seen an escalation of migrants over the past decade
Jorge Yunier showed Cepa Sanchez a compass he used to guide the migrants to Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park officials closed the park to deal with migrants
A group of Cuban migrants were seen standing in the sun in the middle of Duck Key, Florida
About 6,180 Cubans were intercepted at sea by the US Coast Guard during fiscal year 2022, which ended in September. Another group of migrants was seen in Duck Key on Monday
In addition to landing in the national park over the weekend, 160 other migrants arrived in the Middle and Upper Keys. At least 88 of the migrants are from Cuba, US Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet.
US Border Patrol and Coast Guard crews patrolling South Florida and the Keys have seen the largest escalation of boat migrations in nearly a decade, with hundreds of apprehensions in recent months, mostly by people from Cuba and Haiti.
According to Portal, about 6,180 Cubans were intercepted at sea by the US Coast Guard in fiscal 2022. The fiscal year ended in September, but another 3,000 migrants arrived in mid-December.
Meanwhile, 220,000 Cubans have been arrested after fleeing to the US-Mexico border last year.