The US Border Guard says it rescued four Cuban migrants off the coast of Florida as Hurricane Ian rushed towards the west coast of the state on Wednesday.

Walter Slosar, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Miami Border Patrol Unit, said: in a tweet that the US Coast Guard recovered several migrants from the Florida Keys whose boat had apparently been damaged in the storm, forcing them to go ashore. About two dozen others, he said, were still missing from this ship.

The rescue takes place amid a record influx of Latin American migrants and a busy migration week from Cuba as national and local leaders prepare for what some believe is the most intense storm to hit Florida in half a decade.

Last week, the Slosar sector reported that nearly 120 Cuban migrants had arrived by boat, meaning the total number of migrants repatriated by the US Coast Guard in the sector had risen to over 6,000. Beyond that, the Coast Guard estimates 64 migrants have died during the trip to Cuba, which extends over 200 miles of open water to the southern tip of the Florida continent.

Illegal migration is a growing problem between two nations. In 2021, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. government of encouraging illegal migration by failing to process Havana’s visas following abrupt staff cuts at the embassy by former President Donald Trump, which they said made it easier for Cubans to seek asylum.

After relying on its embassy in Guyana – a South American country some 1,700 miles from Cuba – to process immigration visas for much of 2021, the U.S. State Department announced in April that it was resuming efforts to increase staff numbers at the Havana consular office. Visa issuing started again in May after a four-year hiatus.

Cuban migrants cross the Florida Strait in a makeshift raft in this undated photo. The US Border Guard says it rescued four Cuban migrants off the coast of Florida on September 28, 2022 as Hurricane Ian sped toward the west coast of the state.
Photo provided / United States Coast Guard Southeast

Despite the change, in the summer of 2021, many Cuban migrants arrived in the US by boat. On one weekend in August, US immigration officials said they had arrested 187 Cuban migrants who had landed in the Florida Keys between 10 different boats.

That same week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was put under intense public scrutiny over the decision to transfer illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month. this Miami Herald reported the arrival of nearly 100 undocumented migrants from Cuba, all of whom arrived by boat.

Those who made it safe during the hurricane may have encountered a lack of funding to support them.

Although the eye of the storm missed the Florida Keys on Tuesday night, Hurricane Ian caused severe flooding in the area before the rains finally subsided on Wednesday, causing the closure of homeless shelters and other facilities in the area as the storm prepares for a further shoreline landing. While the storm passed, Slosar warned that conditions in the area could remain treacherous.

“Don’t risk your life trying this journey at sea” he tweeted. “A storm with the tide of a king can create treacherous conditions at sea even after a storm has passed.”

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