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Coast Guard sends dozens back to Cuba in early September

Cutter Oak

In separate actions during the first days of September, Coast Guard cutters picked up 52 Cuban migrants in the waters off the Bahamas and Key West, FL, and returned them to Cuba.

On Sept. 2, Coast Guard 7th District command center watchstanders were notified of a disabled 35-foot boat west of the Bahamas with an unknown number of suspected migrants aboard. The Coast Guard Cutter Oak arrived on scene and 20 Cuban migrants were transferred aboard, said the Coast Guard. The 20 migrants were later transferred to the cutter Nantucket and repatriated on Sept. 7.

Coast Guard 7th District command center watchstanders received notification of a 15-foot boat that departed Cuba with 12 suspected migrants on Sept. 3. Cutter Nantucket intercepted the vessel southwest of Key West and took on 12 Cuban migrants, said the Coast Guard. The cutter Nantucket repatriated nine of the 12 migrants on Sept. 7 and the Pea Island repatriated the remaining three on Sept. 8, said the Coast Guard.

In another September incident, Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders received notification of a disabled vessel south of Key West with an unknown number of suspected migrants aboard. The cutter Oak arrived on scene and embarked 21 Cuban migrants thast were transferred to the cutter Pea Island and repatriated on Sept. 8.

The Coast Guard said all of the migrants got food, water, shelter and basic medical attention once aboard the cutters.

Under current U.S. policy, Cubans caught in the waters between the U.S. and Cuba have to be sent back to Cuba, however, Cuban migrants that make it onto U.S. shores get a chance to remain in the country and set on a path to possible citizenship. The rule has been called the “wet foot, dry foot policy”

"The U.S. Coast Guard and its partners maintain a robust patrol presence throughout the Caribbean Sea to deter illicit maritime activity," said Capt. Brendan McPherson, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. "Our main concern is always for the safety of these migrants who are putting their lives at extreme risk in unseaworthy vessels and to protect our nation’s borders by deterring dangerous and illegal activity."

The cutter Pea Island is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Key West, FL.

The cutter Nantucket is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in St. Petersburg, FL.

The cutter Oak is a 225-foot sea-going buoy tender homeported in Charleston, SC.