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6 Cuban migrants arrive ashore near Lantana

U.S. Coast Guard expects more migrants to make journey to South Florida during holidays


LANTANA BEACH, Fla. – Six Cuban migrants are the latest of dozens more that made the journey across the Florida Straits this week.

The group's small makeshift boat washed ashore just south of Lantana in Palm Beach County on Friday morning.

On Monday, nine Cubans were rescued from the waters of Biscayne Bay. Two others made it to land and another two remain lost at sea.

The next day, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued another 33 Cuban migrants off the coast of Boca Raton.

A wooden boat was seen abandoned in the water. Another boat was upside down in the water.

The Coast Guard spotted the group while searching for the two missing migrants from Monday. That search has since been suspended after the Coast Guard searched about 3,100 miles for the men.

Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma called the boat "grossly overloaded."

Many of the migrants jumped out of the boat while waiting to be rescued.

Somma said he believes all the migrants have been accounted for in that case.

"The aircraft that fly have pretty good sensors on board so they can detect very small things," said Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of response for the Coast Guard's 7th District. "They can detect coconuts floating on the water."

Conditions in Cuba are still difficult, and with no recent major storms in the Florida Straights, more and more Cubans are risking their lives to get here.

"We see a lot of repeat customers. Up to seven to nine times we will see them come back," said Fedor.

Once on board the cutters, migrants are given a dry jumpsuit, a medical evaluation and then fed twice a day. Often they sleep on mats on the stern for up to three to five days before being repatriated.

For Cuban-American Coast Guard personnel, it can be difficult.

"I think it is a mission that is very personal to them," said Fedor. "Especially if they are second generation. They might have relatives in Cuba."

"Once they are part of the Coast Guard they see the value that we provide in saving lives at sea," he added.

The migrants' vessels are destroyed because they are a hazard to navigation, and with the number of migrants increasing each year officials often have to coordinate their efforts.

"If we get too many people, too many migrants on a cutter, we will bring another one in," said Fedor.

Coast guard officials said they don't see any reason as to why these numbers should decline. In fact, they expect to see a spike over the holidays. The prevailing theory is that Cubans think that there will be fewer patrols over the holidays, but the Coast Guard said that is not true.

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