Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park closed after influx of hundreds of migrants : NPR

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Over the holiday weekend, hundreds of migrants descended on Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, Fla., on the Gulf of Mexico. Tourists walk along the sea wall around Fort Jefferson in the park in February 2016.

Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images


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Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

Over the holiday weekend, hundreds of migrants descended on Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, Fla., on the Gulf of Mexico. Tourists walk along the sea wall around Fort Jefferson in the park in February 2016.

Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

The US National Park Service has closed the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys after hundreds of migrants arrived on the islands over the New Year’s weekend.

The NPS temporarily closed the park to public access on Monday morning after about 300 migrants landed in the park, according to news reports release. She said the park has seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba.

“The closure, which is expected to last several days, is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff due to the resources and space required to attend to the migrants,” the NPS said.

First responders in the park are providing food, water and basic medical needs until the Department of Homeland Security arrives, the statement noted. Concession operated ferry and marine services are temporarily suspended.

About 70 miles to the west of Key West, Fla., the 100 square mile park consists of seven small islands accessible only by boat or airplane. It is about 100 miles north of Havana, the capital of Cuba.

As Cuba experiences its worst economic downturn in decades, Cubans are coming to the United States in record numbers. American authorities registered more than 220,000 Cubans in the southwest border of the United States in fiscal year 2022, an increase of almost 500% from the same period in 2021. Experts call it the largest exodus from Cuba in history.

More than 160 refugees had landed mostly in the middle and Upper Keys in addition to the 300 people in the Dry Tortugas, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said. he said in a statement on Monday. Sheriff Rick Ramsay called it a “humanitarian crisis” created by “federal failure.”

“This shows a lack of action plan by the federal government to deal with a mass migration issue that was predictable,” Ramsay said.

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