[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Cuban Migration Rising

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cuban Migration Rising

And some people think that things in Cuba are just peachy-keen.

The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy reports that more Cuban migrants have been stopped at sea so far this year than during any of the last 10 years. Considering that we still have 5 months to go in 2005, that figure is sure to rise considering the dire conditions in Cuba right now.

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 1,524 Cuban migrants at sea so far this year -- more than the total for any single year since more than 37,000 migrants rode the waves to South Florida in the 1994 rafter exodus.

U.S. officials are not worried. They say the increase in the number of Cuban migrants stopped at sea is relatively small -- only 25 more people so far this year than during all of last year. Last year's figure of 1,499 was the largest yearlong tally since 1994.

The trend suggests that the 2005 total will be considerably higher by year's end than for 2004. ''We have seen an increase in Cuban migrants this year, but there is no indication of a mass migration,'' said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Ryan Doss. ``It's up, but it's still a low number.''

Figures for Cuban migrant interdictions compiled in fiscal year format -- Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 -- appear more impressive: 2,027 so far this fiscal year compared to 1,225 in fiscal year 2004. By July 29 of the 2004 fiscal year, 1,068 Cuban migrants had been intercepted.

Cubans stopped at sea are generally returned home by the Coast Guard, a result of U.S. accords with Cuba following the rafter exodus. Some Cuban migrants stopped at sea are taken to the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay for resettlement in third countries.

Cubans who evade Coast Guard interdiction and reach U.S. shores are generally allowed to stay in the United States.

Figures listing the number of Cuban migrant landings in South Florida this year were not immediately available.

More than 150 Cuban migrants landed in the Florida Keys during July, according to Border Patrol information released July 27. Figures compiled by the Border Patrol for fiscal year 2004 show a total of 955 Cuban migrants arriving in South Florida, compared to 1,072 in fiscal year 2003.

Some Cuban smugglers may have shifted tactics, transporting migrants to the west coast of Florida instead of traditional drop-off points along the east coast. Nineteen migrants possibly smuggled from Cuba landed July 26 on Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast.

While Cuban migrant interdiction is up, the number of migrants from other countries stopped at sea is down. For example, 847 Haitians have been intercepted so far this year, compared to 3,078 last year.


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