Cruise Ships Aid Cuban Migrants

October 1, 2003
In separate incidents this weekend, Carnival Cruise Line’s Imagination and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas both participated in rescuing potential asylum seekers fleeing Cuba.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas was some 74 miles south of Key West late Saturday night when passengers and officers noticed that a small raft of four migrants appeared to be sinking. They were transferred to the ship and later picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

Carnival’s Imagination picked up nine Cuban refugees in the Florida Strait – 20 miles north of Havana -- on Sunday; after spending two hours on board, they were transferred at sea to a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The ship, on its way back to its home port of Miami, was returning from regularly scheduled stops at Key West and Cozumel.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, all migrants who are rescued are provided with medical attention, food and water while they await a “determination of their status by homeland security immigration officials.” However, in most cases, Cubans who are rescued at sea are returned to Cuba unless they can prove they would be targeted for persecution (those who make it to land can stay). The rafts, alas, are considered navigational hazards and are destroyed.