For the second time in two weeks, a large group of Haitian migrants has come to shore in the Florida Keys.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said 100 to 150 people arrived in a sailboat Monday morning off Summerland Key, about 20 miles from Key West.
Photos provided by the sheriff’s office show a large group of people gathering in the yard of an oceanfront home on Summerland Key.
It is unclear whether the boat came directly from Haiti or elsewhere in the Caribbean. But last week, a source in Haiti who monitors maritime migrant operations told the Miami Herald that two boats had left the country’s northwest coast on Tuesday, and more were scheduled to leave over the weekend. All were bound for the Florida shorelines, the source said.
“When we look at the migration map there is always a peak at high levels of political instability and grave human rights abuses in Haiti,” said Marleine Bastien, a Haitian advocate and founder of Family Action Network Movement in Miami. “It never fails.”
Bastien said the boats will continue as long as conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate.
“Haitians are at war, they are under constant assault and the reason why we haven’t seen a greater amount of people fleeing for their lives is that our people have a lot of courage, they are used to misery,” she said. “We are a people of resilience, people who have been dealing with it so long and we have the highest capacity to endure.”
Prior to Monday’s landing, four Haitian boats have landed in the Florida Keys since November, ferrying nearly 700 Haitians trying to escape worsening conditions in their homeland.
While the Keys are a common landing spot for Cuban migrants, the island chain has not been a frequent endpoint for Haitians. But their arrival in the archipelago suggests that human smugglers are becoming better organized and sophisticated in their methods.
The fact that they’re ending up in the Keys also points to new migration routes, likely using the coastlines and territorial waters of Cuba en route to South Florida in order to evade U.S. Coast Guard cutters stationed between the U.S. and Haiti. The Keys are just 90 miles from Cuba.