A group of at least eight Cuban migrants were spotted Wednesday afternoon off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida, Coast Guard officials said, WFOR-TV reported. They were seen being taken ashore by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The migrants were found in the area of East Mashta Drive and Ocean Drive, WPLG reported. Beachgoers told a reporter for TV station WPLG that the migrants told them they had been at sea for 10 days, and although they had food and water they had experienced turbulent waters during parts of their journey.
As U.S. relations with Cuba slowly begin to normalize, there has been a major rise in Cuban migration to the U.S. in the past year, Al Jazeera America reported. Currently, there are a guaranteed 20,000 immigrant visas issued to Cubans each year and an additional 40,000 nonimmigrant visas granted to temporary visitors. There was a 118 percent spike in the number of Cuban migrants reaching Miami along with four points on the border with Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The number of such arrivals more than doubled between the first quarter of 2014 and the same period of 2015, Al Jazeera America reported, from 4,296 to 9,731.
“The numbers [are] increasing slowly since 2010, and now we're seeing the numbers return to the historical norms of the early 2000s,” said Coast Guard spokesman Chad Taylor, Al Jazeera America reported.
Most of the Cuban migrants arrived at the Laredo border crossing in Texas, and the second-highest number were registered in Miami, which included all ports of entry in South Florida. Other popular U.S. border hubs that have seen a high number of Cuban immigrants include El Paso, Texas; San Diego and Tucson, Arizona. Coast Guard officials in Miami said Tuesday that roughly 3,910 Cubans have been intercepted in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, WPLG reported.