14ymedio, Madrid, 5 April 2022 — The authorities of Monroe County, Florida, are used to the arrival of boats from Cuba loaded with Cuban rafters, but this weekend they were amazed when they saw 15 undocumented Russians and Central Asians arrive on one of them, presumably part of a group of up to 40 people. “This is something different and new,” said Mayor David Rice.
According to The Washington Post , spokeswoman Alyson Crean of the Key West Police Department explained that on Sunday around 4 in the afternoon a boat chartered from Cuba docked at the southern end of the city’s tourist district. Agents quickly realized how unusual the situation was and alerted the US Department of Homeland Security and Customs.
“All we do when immigrants of any nationality arrive is make sure they are safe, but these people were not like regular immigrants,” Rice said, explaining that the matter had been treated as a national security case. “They were well dressed, on a chartered ship, they hadn’t been adrift for a week.”
“They tied up at a dock there, disembarked and went into the cafe,” Crean said.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on Monday that the group was made up of 15 migrants (9 Russians, 4 Kazakhs and 2 Kyrgyz) and that they were being processed for deportation.
“Smugglers do not take into account the lives of migrants and too many lives are lost at sea when people make the dangerous journey in makeshift boats, rafts and other vessels poorly equipped to handle rough waters,” said Eduardo Maia Silva, spokesman of the DHS, which noted that any person who arrives in the country outside the law is subject to expulsion.
Anyone who “attempts to enter the United States by sea, without a lawful basis for entry, will be subject to removal,” he said.
According to witnesses present at the time of the migrants’ arrival, the group was much larger, about 40 people, although the DHS has not confirmed this or said it was looking for more people involved in the incident.
County Sheriff Rick Ramsay told The Washington Post the migrants were arriving with luggage and the boat was about 30 feet long. Although the official considers it premature to call this case a trend, he fears that the war in Ukraine and the tense political situation in Russia, which in recent months has increased penalties against the exercise of individual liberties, could lead some citizens of the area to look for alternative routes, like this one.
It is also unclear if the Russians had been on the island for a long time and chose to leave by boat like so many Cubans or if they had recently fled their country.
“Anything is possible, but we need more data and analysis to see if it’s something unusual, an anomaly,” the sheriff added.
Shannon Weiner, emergency director for Monroe County, said that there is also coordination with the FBI to investigate the incident, but a Coast Guard spokesman said that they are not aware to date that there are Russians or Ukrainians trying to reach the USA by sea.
On Saturday, The Washington Post also reported that there are Ukrainian refugees trying to reach the country through Tijuana, Mexico, like Latin American migrants. The Administration has urged following the legal channels, since Biden promised to accept 100,000 people, but it has yet to be determined how.
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