Influx of Cuban migrants in Florida Keys shuts down national park

(CNN) — Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys is temporarily closed to the public due to an influx of migrants from Cuba.

The closure, which went into effect Monday, is expected to last several days “while law enforcement and medical personnel assess, treat and coordinate transportation to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who have arrived at the park over the past two days,” according to a National Park Service (NPS) press release.

The park is about 70 miles west of Key West and can only be reached by boat or seaplane. Dry Tortugas covers approximately 100 square miles of mostly water and includes seven small islands. It is found in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“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,” NPS said Monday.

The park’s closure “is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff due to the resources and space needed to care for migrants,” NPS said.

“Concession-operated ferry and seaplane services are also temporarily suspended,” the NPS press release said.

According to a tweet from the Homeland Security Task Force’s Southeast Region, federal, state and local authorities are “aware of multiple migrant landings this weekend” on Dry Tortugas.

Several law enforcement agencies are “coordinating their efforts to recover those currently stranded on remote and uninhabited islands,” the tweet read.

The exact status and number of migrants being processed are unclear.

On New Years Day alone, more than 160 migrants were encountered in the Florida Keys, according to a series of tweets from Walter N. Slosar, a US Border Patrol chief patrol officer. There were about 88 migrants encountered in the area on New Year’s Eve, Slosar said.

In October and November, there were nearly 14,000 encounters with Cuban migrants in the state, compared to about 35,000 for the 12 months through September 30, 2022, according to USCBP data.

Top image: Flight over Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. (Jeffrey K. Collins/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

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