- 14 Cuban migrants are interdicted aboard "rustic vessels" on Christmas Day
- 12 more from one boat are stopped on Christmas and repatriated
- "People aboard these vessels are putting their lives at risk," Coast Guard official says
Twenty-six migrants were caught in the Florida Straits and repatriated to Cuba in recent days by the U.S. Coast Guard, as part of continued U.S. efforts to thwart potentially perilous attempts to enter the country by sea.
The migrants were interdicted in three separate incidents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, episodes that the Coast Guard detailed on Friday.
"Migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States by boat often travel abroad dangerously overloaded and ill-equipped vessels," said Capt. Brendan McPherson, the enforcement chief for the 7th Coast Guard District.
"People aboard these vessels are putting their lives at risk, so the Coast Guard with our partner agencies will continue to patrol vigilantly to rescue and repatriate undocumented migrants who take to the sea."
Eight Cuban migrants on a "rustic vessel" were interdicted Monday by the crew of the cutter Ocracoke, the Coast Guard said.
The same U.S. ship -- with the help of an HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft -- spotted and intercepted a similar boat with six migrants south of Marathon, Florida. As in the other case, these people were taken off their vessel and eventually transferred to the Coast Guard cutter Key Biscayne.
Once aboard the U.S. ship, the migrants were given food, water, shelter and "basic medical attention" before being repatriated to Cuba.
The same scenario played out Tuesday, when the Coast Guard cutter Pea Island's crew interdicted 12 Cuban migrants they'd found on a boat south of Key West, Florida.
As noted on its website, the Coast Guard has played a role in intercepting seaborne migrants throughout its history.
That includes its efforts during the Mariel Boatlift from April to September 1980, when about 124,000 Cuban migrants used mostly U.S. vessels to try to get to the United States.
Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were among those U.S. presidents who have ordered that undocumented migrants at sea by interdicted and returned to their country of origin.
Attempted miss migrations have started in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and significant numbers of migrants have come from China and Central America as well.