National Park Closed Following Arrival of 300 Migrants

A remote group of islands and a national park off the coast of Key West, Florida, were closed on Monday after a boatload of about 300 migrants landed there.

The Dry Tortugas National Park is a group of mostly uninhabited islands about 100 miles north of Havana. It is known for its clear water and coral reefs. But in the last few days, the islands have become a different kind of safe place.

Local and federal authorities say that over 160 more migrants have arrived in other parts of the Florida Keys over the past few days. This is in addition to the 300 migrants who arrived on the archipelago. In a statement, the officials didn’t say where the people came from, but they did say that the park and surrounding area had recently “seen an increase in people coming by boat from Cuba.”

National Park Closed Following Arrival of 300 Migrants
National Park Closed Following Arrival of 300 Migrants

The government says the influx of migrants started on New Year’s Eve and comes at a time when there is a lot of migration by sea. In the year that ended in September, the United States Coast Guard caught more than 6,000 Cubans. This is compared to the year before when they only caught about 840 migrants.

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Park officials said the archipelago would be closed temporarily starting at 8 a.m. on Monday so that authorities and medical workers could check on the migrants, treat them, and take them to Key West, Fla. They also said that the park’s own first responders would help the migrants until the Department of Homeland Security arrived by giving them food, water, and basic medical care.

Lt. Cmdr. John Beal, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, said of the migrants, “The goal now is to get them off the island by boat and onto the mainland in Key West and the Florida Keys, where they can then be handed over to federal law enforcement.”

“They are uninhabited, remote islands that don’t have the infrastructure to support them,” he said, adding that local, state, and federal authorities were working together to get food and water to the archipelago, which is usually only staffed by a few rangers.

The federal government said that the migrants would be taken off the islands and checked to see if they were allowed to stay in the United States or if they should be sent back to their home country.

The influx of migrants over the weekend was called a “mass migration crisis” by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of the Florida Keys and their islands. The office said that the federal government was slow to respond, even though in some cases they were not expected to arrive until the next day. In a statement posted to Facebook on Monday, the sheriff’s office said, “This federal failure is making a humanitarian crisis.”

Officials said that the park would likely be closed for a few days. They said this was “necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to help the migrants.”

Officials from the park said that all closures would “stay in place until further notice,” and that all ferries and seaplanes would stop running during that time.

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