MIAMI (AP) - Seven Cuban migrants found off the Florida Keys were returned to their Caribbean homeland, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores repatriated the migrants on Wednesday to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba. The group was found on Saturday after a good Samaritan reported a rustic boat was taking on water east of Card Sound, the Coast Guard said in a press release.
Coast Guard Air Station Miami launched a helicopter and Coast Guard Station Islamorada launched a boat crew to respond to the report. Station Islamorada arrived on scene and rescued the migrants from the partially submerged vessel, authorities said.
The migrants were then transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores for repatriation. They were given food, water and basic medical attention.
Under U.S. policy, most Cubans who make it to dry land are permitted to remain. Those intercepted at sea are generally returned to Cuba.
The Coast Guard said 573 Cuban migrants have been picked up since this fiscal year began on Oct. 1. In the last fiscal year, the Coast Guard reported 1,275 Cuban migrant interdictions.
"As the primary federal maritime law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard is tasked with interdicting undocumented migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally by sea," said Rear Adm. William Baumgartner, Seventh Coast Guard District commander. "Migrants who travel aboard ill-equipped vessels or smuggled aboard go-fast boats are putting their lives at extreme risk. Our migrant interdiction patrols help save lives by deterring dangerous illegal migrant activity and removing migrants from unsafe environments."
The Coast Guard Cutter William Flores is a 154-foot fast response cutter based in Miami, capable of speeds in excess of 28 knots and operating in seas up to 18-feet.
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