At least 500 migrants have arrived in small boats in the Florida Keys in recent days, a wave that the local police department called a “crisis” on Monday.
The economic crisis, food shortages and runaway inflation in Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean are fueling the latest wave of migration. Over the weekend, 300 migrants arrived in the sparsely populated Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of Key West. The park was closed so police and medical personnel could test the migrants before taking them to Key West, the park tweeted.
Separately, 160 migrants arrived by boat in other parts of the Florida Keys on New Year’s weekend, authorities said. On Monday, 30 people in two new groups of migrants were found in the Middle Keys.
In a news release, Monroe County Police Chief Rick Ramsay criticized the federal government’s response to the surge in migrant arrivals, saying it is putting pressure on local resources. Border Patrol told the police department that the federal response to some of the migrant arrivals would have to wait a day, according to the news release.
“Refugee arrivals require a lot of police department resources in helping us provide our federal law enforcement partners to ensure migrants are healthy and safe,” said Ramsay, whose department has jurisdiction over the Florida Keys. “This shows the lack of a federal government roadmap to deal with a massive mass migration problem that was predictable.”
Officials of the Dry Tortugas National Park anticipate that it will remain closed for several days due to the space and resources required to serve the migrants. The national park is at the southern tip of the US mainland and attracts scuba divers and snorkelers for its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish and shipwrecks.
“As in other parts of the Florida Keys, there has been an increase in the arrival of people from Cuba by boat to the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park recently in the park,” according to a news release from the National Park Service.
In addition to the arrivals at the national park over the weekend, 160 more migrants arrived in the Middle and Upper Keys. At least 88 of the migrants are from Cuba, the Customs and Border Protection office tweeted.
Border Patrol and Coast Guard teams patrolling South Florida and the Keys have experienced the largest increase in boat migrations in nearly a decade, with hundreds of interceptions in recent months, mostly of people from Cuba and Haiti.