Carnival Paradise came to the rescue of a makeshift raft in the Florida Strait, just three weeks since the cruise ship performed a rescue operation for another refugee boat.
Reports from US Officials that the Cuban refugee crisis is worsening seems to be confirmed by an increase in rescue operations by cruise ships in the last couple of months.
Carnival Paradise Rescues Six Refugees
For the second time in less than a month and the next in a series of rescues performed by cruise ships, Carnival Paradise rescued six refugees from a makeshift raft in the Gulf of Mexico last Friday.
The 1998-built Carnival Paradise sailed from Tampa, Florida, on a voyage to Cozumel, Mexico, on August 18. During the sea day on August 19, the ship encountered a makeshift raft constructed out of styrofoam and plywood with six Cuban refugees onboard. The Captain announced the vessel would be slowing down and checking on the refugees.
One passenger, Pat Messier, commented to WFLA News Channel 8: “The captain came over the loudspeaker and said we were going to be slowing down, that they had a boat out there to make sure they weren’t in any distress,”
Once the raft was alongside, it became clear to the Captain and crew that it was not seaworthy at all, and Carnival Paradise took the six refugees onboard.
Besides being dehydrated from spending significant time out in the hot sun without proper supplies, the refugees were in good health, according to Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Matt Lupoli. The migrants were welcomed on board and received a medical check-up, food, and clothes.
Once the 71,925-gross-ton Carnival Paradise reached its first port of call, Cozumel in Mexico, on August 20, the six refugees were handed over to the Mexican authorities. Whether they will be sent back to Cuba is unknown.
Refugees Taking Huge Risks
While not uncommon for cruise ships to encounter rafts and boats with refugees in the Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico, the number of rescues this year is already significantly higher than in previous years. With the return of cruising from Florida and the downturn in Cuba on the economy that was already struggling at best, refugees seem to be favoring their chances.
And this comes with huge risks. Earlier this month, the US coast guard reported that two people drowned and five went missing after their raft overturned in the Florida Straits.
US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson said this: “This situation highlights the risks these migrants face as they attempt to enter the United States illegally by sea. The Florida Straits and its approaches can be hazardous for even the best trained and equipped mariners,”
“For people illegally migrating aboard unseaworthy or overloaded boats and homemade rafts, who lack basic lifesaving equipment like life jackets, those risks can often prove deadly,”
Cruise ships are seeing increased activity as well. Just three weeks ago, Carnival Paradise encountered a similar situation, where 20 people were rescued from a small, overloaded boat on July 31.
Carnival Sunrise rescued 12 Cuban refugees that were adrift south of Key West on July 29.
Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line’s newest cruise ship, has also performed several rescues this year, including rescuing twenty Cuban people during two separate events and supplying fuel, food, and water to another boat in January of this year.