Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another group at sea

Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another group
at sea
10/28/2014 1:20 PM 10/28/2014 4:50 PM

The Coast Guard continued its search Tuesday for two missing Cuban
rafters, part of a group of 13 men that left days ago from Cojimar, on
Cuba's northern coast about 340 miles east of Havana.

On Tuesday, activist Ramón Saúl Sánchez, head of the Democracy Movement,
said a man who identified himself as the father of one of the 13 was
desperately trying to find his son at area hospitals and with the Coast

Sánchez said there was also a second boat that has not yet arrived or
been heard from carrying 23 Cuban rafters — 22 men and a woman — who
departed from the port of Mariel about eight days ago. The Coast Guard
said it has not heard reports of another group of Cuban rafters.

The latest incidents are part of a growing number of Cuban rafters who
have arrived on South Florida shores or have been interdicted in waters
of the Florida Straits in the last 12 months.

Five suspected Cuban migrants picked up off Hollywood Beach
According to the Coast Guard, 2,059 Cubans were intercepted at sea in
the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, or 702 more than the fiscal year
before. About 814 Cubans reached shore during the same time period, an
increase from 359 who made it to the United States the previous year.

The majority of Cuban migrants who arrive in the United States without a
visa cross the border from Mexico. So far this year, 16,247 Cubans have
arrived via the border, according to figures released recently by U.S.
Customs and Border Protection.

The latest incident unfolded Monday around 10 a.m. Monday when the
captain of a private boat called the Coast Guard to report people in the
water desperately clinging to remnants of what seemed like a raft or
makeshift boat.

Ultimately, three Cuban migrants were plucked from the waters by rescue
helicopters dispatched by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. They were taken to
area hospitals for medical treatment. Five other migrants were rescued
by the Coast Guard and taken to a Coast Guard cutter offshore. Two other
rafters swam safely to shore at Elliot Key, near Key Biscayne. That left
three rafters unaccounted for.

Late Monday, a good Samaritan located a person in the water near Fowey
Rocks Light. The person in the water was rescued and transferred to a
Coast Guard crew. They brought the man ashore for medical treatment.

On Tuesday, Sánchez told el Nuevo Herald that he had been in contact
with Lázaro Allegue in Miami who said his son Adríán was one of the 13
rafters in the makeshift boat that broke apart Sunday night in Biscayne
Bay near the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in South Miami-Dade.

Sánchez said Lázaro Allegue did not know whether his son was among the
two missing, those taken to area hospitals for medical treatment, those
held aboard a Coast Guard cutter or those processed by the Border Patrol
after they reached land.

Under a system currently in place, the Coast Guard provides information
on Cuban rafters to the offices of Cuban-American federal lawmakers.

But Sánchez said that system has resulted in rolls of red tape. He
called Tuesday for the Coast Guard to overhaul the system and allow
relatives of rafters to inquire directly by faxing a picture of their
loved to the agency to check if a loved one was in custody.

Under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy now in effect, Cuban migrants who are
interdicted at sea are generally returned to the island — although some
are taken to the U.S. Navy base in Guantánmo if they have a fear of
persecution if returned. Cuban migrants who reach shore are allowed to stay.

Separately, Sánchez said another member of the Cuban exile community had
called him Tuesday to inquire about a second Cuban migrant boat carrying
22 men and one woman. Sánchez said the boat had left eight days ago from
Mariel, a Cuban seaport west of Havana, from where more than 125,000
Cuban refugees left for the United States in 1980.

"The people are worried because they have not heard from these
migrants," Sánchez said.

Source: Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another
group at sea | The Miami Herald -

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