MIAMI –Willy Allen, an immigration lawyer, said the Cuban herringbone story was cyclical. It has to do with the pressures Cubans are under on the island, and he noticed the upward trend.
“Since January, almost a dozen people have hired me who have come by boat and landed in Florida, have not gone to authorities but have come to my office to seek asylum,” Allen said. .
He said it pained him to learn of the most recent tragedy at sea. The US Coast Guard found two bodies, eight survivors and 10 who are missing. Their boat left Puerto de Mariel on Sunday and capsized on Wednesday evening.
“Almost every year we have a tragedy like this,” Allen said.
Since October last year, the US Coast Guard has intercepted 250 Cuban migrants. That’s around five times as many migrants as in fiscal year 2020 when they intercepted 49 Cuban migrants. This year is also likely to surpass fiscal year 2019 when the US Coast Guard intercepted 313 Cuban migrants.
This month alone, three interceptions of Cuban migrants at sea were reported. Often, Cubans risk their lives in crowded and rickety boats. U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Brandon Earhart has said makeshift boats are unsafe.
“A lot of these boats aren’t designed to be seaworthy,” Earhart said. “They are not designed for those long trips.”
Andy Gomez, a former professor of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, said we are likely seeing a further increase in Cuban migration. He said it is reminiscent of the rafters crisis of the 1990s after the island’s worst economic collapse since the 1959 revolution.
“Economic conditions in Cuba today are probably worse than even during the special period,” Gomez said.
Cuba’s inefficient economy was already struggling when former President Donald Trump tightened US sanctions. Cuba’s tourism industry has been directly affected and this represents an important source of revenue for the Cuban government. Then the global coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the crisis.
Cubans are struggling with shortages. Relatives in South Florida had to find ways to send money to other countries for someone to send to Cuba. But even with the money, Cubans are sometimes unable to find the basics. Their options are limited.
“It’s desperation, just trying to get off the island,” Gomez said.
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