Undocumented Russian migrants arrive in Key West, feds say
Amid the Russia-Ukraine war refugee crisis, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported on Monday that a group of undocumented Russian migrants arrived on a boat in Monroe County.
The sports fishing boat made landfall with 15 people at about 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, near the historic Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A. landmark and the Ponce de Leon fishing pier.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported there were nine migrants from Russia, four from Kazakhstan, and two from Kyrgyzstan in custody, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Witnesses reported that the migrants were carrying luggage and walked into a beachfront cafe on Duval Street in Key West. Eduardo Maia Silva, a Homeland Security spokesman, reported the group was being processed for removal proceedings.
Local authorities suspect the migrants crossed the Florida Straits from Cuba, but it was unclear if they had been residents of Cuba or had traveled from their home countries.
The Sunday incident in Key West remains under investigation. Silva discouraged the voyage and said the Coast Guard, CBP agents, and local law enforcement regularly patrol U.S. waters in search of migrants and smugglers.
“Smugglers have no regard for the lives of migrants, and far too many lives are lost at sea as individuals take the dangerous journey in makeshift boats, rafts, and other vessels ill-equipped to handle the rough waters,” Silva said in a statement.
The Russia-Ukraine war’s refugee crisis continues to unfold. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that more than four million people have fled Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24. The conflict also prompted Russians who had been traveling during the conflict to be stranded without access to flights back home or Russian bank accounts.
Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Emily Hales contributed to this report.