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US repatriates 50 Cuban migrants found at sea


Some rescued migrants


The United States repatriated 50 Cuban migrants Wednesday who had been intercepted at sea in precarious rafts trying to reach US shores.

The migrants were arrested last week in three different boats that had left Bahia de Cabanas bay in northern Cuba, the US Coast Guard said.

The first 27 migrants were intercepted on Friday, after their raft was spotted by a cruise ship near the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys tropical islands.

That same day, the Coast Guard stopped a second boat with 15 Cubans on board in the same area.

The remaining eight Cubans were arrested Saturday when they were still relatively close to the northern Cuban port of Matanzas.

“All three interdictions included unseaworthy, homemade vessels that posed significant risk to the migrants attempting to make the perilous journey,” the US Coast Guard said in a statement.

It said the migrants were all transferred “safely” to a Coast Guard vessel for repatriation. There, they were provided food, water, shelter and basic medication.

In recent years, the Coast Guard has found a growing number of Cubans trying to cross the shark-infested waters separating the communist island from Florida. The journey is just 90 miles (150 kilometers) long.

The number of migrants increased after Washington and Havana made the historic announcement in December that they would seek to restore ties after half a century of enmity.

Cubans are concerned that the move will end immigration benefits provided by the United States, where they can stay legally if they succeed in reaching US shores.

Since October, the Coast Guard has picked up 2,460 Cuban trying to reach the United States.

In fiscal year 2014, which ended in September, the figure was 3,677, up from 2,129 the year before and 1,870 in 2012.

The US Coast Guard discourages these dangerous illegal crossings, which sometimes end in deaths at sea.


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