WEST LOCK, Fla. –
At least 500 migrants have landed in the Florida Keys over the past few days in what the local sheriff’s office described Monday as a “crisis”.
Economic instability, food shortages and soaring inflation in Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean are driving the most recent wave of migration. Over the weekend, 300 migrants arrived at the sparsely populated Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West. The park was closed so law enforcement and medical staff could assess the group before moving them to Key West, the park tweeted.
Separately, 160 migrants arrived by boat in other parts of the Florida Keys over New Year’s Day weekend, officials said. On Monday, 30 people from two new groups of migrants were found in the Middle Keys.
In a press release, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay criticized the federal response to the surge in immigration, saying it was using up too many local resources. The US Border Patrol told the sheriff’s office that the federal response to some migrant landings may take up to a day, the press release said.
“Incoming refugees need a lot of resources from the Sheriff’s Office as we help our federal law enforcement partners ensure that migrants are in good health and safe,” said Ramsay, who Competent offices include the Florida Keys, said. “This shows that the federal government lacks a working plan to address the foreseeable mass migration problem.”
Officials at Dry Tortugas National Park said they expected to close for several days because of the space and resources needed to care for the migrants. The national park lies at the southern tip of the continental United States — and attracts snorkelers and divers with its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish, and shipwrecks.
“Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in the number of people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park,” said Public Service. National Commissioner said in a press release.
In addition to the landings in the national park over the weekend, another 160 migrants arrived in the Middle and Upper Keys. At least 88 migrants arrived from Cuba, US Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol patrolling South Florida and the Keys experienced the largest escalation in boat migration in nearly a decade, with hundreds of arrests in recent months, mainly are people from Cuba and Haiti.