Coast Guard returns 39 Cubans found drifting at sea

The number of Cubans trying to reach the United States in rafts and small boats has grown, possibly because of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Story highlights

  • The group was returned to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba
  • It was found drifting in the water northwest of Havana
  • Coast Guard described the migrants' boat as "rustic"

(CNN)More than three dozen migrants have been returned to Cuba after the U.S. Coast Guard found them drifting at sea.

All 39 migrants were repatriated to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba, on Saturday, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
    The group was found drifting in the water northwest of Havana on a boat described as "rustic." Coast Guard cutter Isaac Mayo took them aboard Monday and gave them food and water before repatriating them.
    "Safety of life at sea continues to be the Coast Guard's primary concern," said Capt. Mark Gordon of the Coast Guard's 7th District.
    "The dangerous waters of the Florida Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill-advised and illegal voyages. Immigration policies have not changed and we urge people not to take to the ocean in unseaworthy vessels. It is illegal and extremely dangerous."
    Illegal maritime migration attempts from Cuba to the southeastern U.S. have increased since relations between the two countries were normalized in 2014.
    About 3,140 Cubans have attempted the dangerous journey since October, the Coast Guard said.
    The increase may be caused by a rumor circulating among Cubans that the United States will change its "wet foot, dry foot" policy, the Coast Guard said last year.
    The policy allows Cubans who reach American shores to seek asylum. They can obtain permanent resident status after a year, the Migration Policy Institute said.