Key Biscayne

Cuban migrants make midday landing at condo

Bystanders gather to look at a raft that landed on the beach behind the Mar Azul condominium in Key Biscayne with nine Cuban men on board on Tuesday, September 23, 2014.
Bystanders gather to look at a raft that landed on the beach behind the Mar Azul condominium in Key Biscayne with nine Cuban men on board on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. EL NUEVO HERALD STAFF

Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, a makeshift boat carrying nine Cuban rafters landed in front of Key Biscayne’s multi-story oceanfront Mar Azul condominium.

As the rafters — all men in their 20s, 30s and 40s — scrambled ashore, Mar Azul residents came out to take a peek, said Police Chief Charles Press.

One condo resident shot video of the rafters as they walked away from the boat, which had inner tubes on the sides and what appeared to be an engine in the back. The words Brayan and Yoanni were painted on the back. Several were wearing soaked T-shirts, shirts and pants and appeared to be in good health, Press said.

Key Biscayne officers quickly responded and the rafters told police they had had been at sea for 10 days. However, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol said they may have been smuggled into the country.

The rafters were taken into a room inside the Mar Azul to await the arrival of paramedics and the Border Patrol, Press said.

Border Patrol officers were to take custody and transport the rafters to the Dania Beach station for processing, said spokesman Frank Miller.

Under the U.S.’s current dry-foot/wet-foot policy, Cuban migrants reaching U.S. soil generally are detained briefly by the Border Patrol, then released. They can apply for permanent residence after more than a year in the country. Cuban migrants interdicted at sea generally are returned to the island.

The Key Biscayne rafters are part of an increasing number of Cuban migrants who have arrived in the United States by sea and land within the last 13 months.

According to the Border Patrol, at least 780 Cuban migrants have arrived on South Florida beaches since the beginning of this fiscal year.

The number is higher than the total number of Cuban migrants who landed on South Florida beaches in the last fiscal year: 359.

The number of Cuban migrants arriving via the Mexican border also has increased. As of Sept. 10, at least 16,933 Cuban migrants have crossed the border — 4,642 more than in fiscal year 2013.

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