Cubans who wanted to reach the U.S. by sea were detained over 12 days in 12 separate operations, Coast Guard said.
The U.S. Coast Guard has said it has sent 119 Cuban migrants back to their country in a dozen operations over the course of three days as growing numbers of Cubans try to reach the U.S. by water.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, the Coast Guard said the migrants were dragged down the Strait of South Florida from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys after their boats were driven off the coast.
“In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine.”
#Do not take to the sea @USCG Cutters Margaret Norvell and Raymond Evans teams repatriated 119 people to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba, on Monday, following 12 separate interdictions due to the safety of life at sea.
– USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) 4 January 2022
Cuban state media said Tuesday’s repatriation was the largest in four years.
Footage of the docks on Cuba’s north coast shows masked health workers dressed in white receiving the migrants, who were delivered by US authorities by boat.
The development comes at a time when Cuba’s economy is being hit by uploads US sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused major international tourism to the Caribbean island to stumble.
In recent decades, the dangerous crossing between Cuba and the United States – often hampered by rapid ocean currents, relentless sun and wind and poor vessels – has claimed the lives of many Cubans.
Cuban figures show that 586 Cuban migrants attempted to reach American soil in the first three months of the 2022 financial year alone – a marked increase from 2021, when the Coast Guard repatriated a total of 838 Cubans.
The number of Cubans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border also reached its highest in a decade between October 2020 and May 2021, according to U.S. immigration statistics, as many Cubans turn to overland routes to try to enter the U.S.
The Cuban government says it is advocating for legal, orderly and safe migration.
It has the US blamed for the increase in migration, says the country’s policies, including the Cold War era embargo, encourage Cubans to risk their lives and leave the island.
In July, Cubans took to the streets in protest of rising prices, food and medicine shortages and other socio-economic problems exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, another planned round of opposition demonstrations frozen amidst laws that have Prohibited protests, a heavy police presence in the streets, and the detention of several opposition figures.
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said last year after the unprecedented protests that Cubans leaving the island “will not come to the United States”.