Cruise Ship Rescues Cuban Migrants Near Florida Keys

18 people, including women and children, were rescued from a makeshift boat by the Scarlet Lady cruise ship between Key West and Cuba.
Posted at 8:27 PM, Jan 04, 2023

At sea, a surge of migrants is making the journey to the United States. Video showed the moment a cruise ship encountered a boat of Cuban migrants and the effort to help bring them to safety. Celebrity Cruises thanked the crews for their actions. But it’s just a snapshot of recent migrant landings in the Florida Keys, including a high number over the holiday weekend.

The local sheriff’s office described it as a spike in Cuban refugee arrivals.  

"You can see that they're leaving a much more desperate and dire situation," said Billy Delph, CEO of Delph Fishing Charters. 

Hundreds of migrants arrived at the remote dry Tortugas National Park, prompting it to close. The Homeland Security Task Force Southeast tweeted at least 90 people have been removed so far as food and shelter is provided until the stranded migrants are transferred. 

"Recently, when they're coming across, they're telling us things like they're starving, you know, they need to get out," Delph said 

U.S. Border Patrol officials say they intercepted more than 130 Haitian migrants in Key Largo Tuesday, tweeting, "the Miami sector has seen more than a 400% increase in migrant encounters since Oct. 1."

More specifically, the U.S. Coast Guard says it’s interdicted over 4,000 Cubans since then — that’s nearly 70% of 2022’s total. 

They’ve recently repatriated dozens of Cuban migrants back to their country. 

Jorge Duany is the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. 

"There are several economic, social, political, and even health reasons for this surge in the Cuban exodus that we saw last year and probably will continue this year, the tremendous economic crisis that Cuba has been suffering for the past few years, the crackdowns on Cuban dissidents by the Cuban government, and of course, pandemic," Duany said. 

He says there’s a perfect storm and expects to see a continuation of the exodus from Cuba. 

"This is the largest single number of Cubans ever registered in a single year trying to leave their country," Duany said. 

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba will resume full processing of immigrant visas as it reopens its services this week.

U.S. Reopening Visa And Consular Services At Embassy In Cuba

U.S. Reopening Visa And Consular Services At Embassy In Cuba

The Embassy confirmed this week it will begin processing immigrant visas, with a priority placed on permits to reunite Cubans with family in the U.S.