Latest rescue brings Cuban rafter total to more than 150 in Yucatan waters

Photo: More than 150 Cuban rafters have arrived in Yucatan in 2014-15.

In the latest incident of Cuban rafters in Yucatan waters, on Tuesday Nov. 24 a Mexican Navy vessel came to the aid of six rafters who had been rescued by a fishing vessel about 492 kilometers (266 nautical miles) northwest of Progreso.

The six Cubans were adrift when they were spotted and rescued by the crew of the fishing boat “Robalo VIII”, which immediately notified the federal authorities.

After providing first aid and verifying that they were in good health, the Navy transferred the rafters to the remote terminal of the Port of Progreso. The Cubans were then sent to the Merida facilities of the National Institute of Migration.

Authorities have reported the arrival in Yucatan of more than 150 Cuban rafters in 2014 and so far in 2015, in what is considered the largest exodus from the island in the past decade. Most are seeking to reach the United States, using Mexico as a stopover on their journey.

However, unlike the Cubans who have in past months arrived to Mexico, the six recent arrivals could never reach the United States due to the Mexico-Cuba repatriation agreement signed Nov. 7 in Merida by President Enrique Peña Nieto and Cuban President Raul Castro. Due to the agreement, the six Cubans would be sent back to the island.

The Navy reported that that the six Cubans were rescued by the fishing vessel and delivered to the elements of the Oceanic Patrol PO-153 Guanajuato that was sent to the site by the First Naval Region, headquartered in Veracruz.

All underwent a medical examination. The six are in good health, being brought to the remote terminal of Progreso, where they were given to staff of the National Institute of Migration to be transferred to the detention facility in Merida.

Photo: More than 150 Cuban rafters have arrived in Yucatan in 2014-15.
More than 150 Cuban rafters have arrived in Yucatan in 2014 and so far in 2015.

The National Migration Institute (INM) has reported that in 2014 and so far this year, Mexican authorities have rescued more than 15o Cuban rafters in Yucatan coastal waters.

INM reported that 80 percent of rafters obtained release from Yucatan to regularize their situation or, rather, leave the country to go to the United States.

In an official statement, the National Migration Institute reported that in the past five years the number of Cubans with legal residence in Yucatan is 988. Regarding the Antillean rafters, only two sought asylum in Mexico for humanitarian issues but, in the end, they decided to settle in another country.

The Institute also reported that in the last three years only one person has been deported to Cuba, who left his country with a passport but entered Mexico illegally.

All other Cuban rafters have left Yucatan with permission to regularize their situation, have left the country on their own, or have been taken to another office, located in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, because they did not have the means sufficient to prove their immigration and legal situation in the state, according to INM.