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SHOCK: Russian rafters arrive in Florida from Cuba

"This is something different and new," commented Monroe County Mayor David Rice

April 5, 2022 1:46pm

Updated: April 5, 2022 7:28pm

At least 15 immigrants from Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union arrived illegally in the United States over the weekend on a boat contracted in Cuba.

On Monday, a group of undocumented migrants from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan allegedly arrived on a boat in Monroe County. The vessel made landfall around 3:30 p.m. Sunday near the Ponce de Leon fishing pier.

Local authorities have not determined whether the group recently fled the war or had been in Cuba for some time. Several U.S. federal agencies are investigating the operation.

Homeland Security spokesman Eduardo Maia Silva reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents detained the migrants and are processing the group for removal proceedings, according to

"Smugglers have no regard for the lives of migrants, and too many lives are lost at sea when individuals undertake the dangerous journey in makeshift boats, rafts, and other vessels ill-equipped to handle choppy waters," Silva commented in a statement.

Monroe County officials are accustomed to encountering Cuban immigrants in the Florida Keys. However, they say this is the first time they have encountered immigrants from Russia or Eastern Europe in the Florida Straits.

"This is something different and new," said Monroe County Mayor David Rice. He also indicated that officials initially treated the incident as a "national security event."

According to Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, it is premature to view this incident as a possible broader trend in migration patterns. In the meantime, the FBI is supporting CBP and DHS in investigating the incident.