Undocumented Russian migrants arrive near popular landmark in Key West

FILE: In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, visitors gather at the Southernmost Point marker Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Key West, Fla. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP) (Rob O'Neal)

MIAMI – Amid the Russia-Ukraine war refugee crisis, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported on Monday that a group of undocumented Russian migrants arrived on a boat in Monroe County.

About 15 people made landfall at about 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, near the historic Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A. landmark, at the Ponce de Leon fishing pier.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported there were nine migrants from Russia, four from Kazakhstan, and two from Kyrgyzstan in custody who made the voyage in a sports fishing boat.

Eduardo Maia Silva, a Homeland Security spokesman, reported CBP agents detained the migrants and were processing the group for removal proceedings.

Local authorities suspect the migrants crossed the Florida Straits from Cuba, but it was unclear if they had been residents of Cuba or had traveled from their home countries.

The Sunday incident in Key West remains under investigation. Silva discouraged the voyage and said the Coast Guard, CBP agents, and local law enforcement regularly patrol U.S. waters in search of migrants and smugglers.

“Smugglers have no regard for the lives of migrants, and far too many lives are lost at sea as individuals take the dangerous journey in makeshift boats, rafts, and other vessels ill-equipped to handle the rough waters,” Silva said in a statement.

The Russia-Ukraine war’s refugee crisis continued to unfold. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that more than four million people have fled Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24. The conflict also displaced Russians who had been traveling during the conflict and were stranded without access to flights back home or Russian bank accounts.


Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Emily Hales contributed to this report.

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The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.