MIAMI – A cruise ship on the weekend rescued 16 Cuban migrants trying to sail to the United States on a homemade raft, the U.S. Coast Guard told EFE on Sunday.
The rafters were taken on board the Carnival Sensation before being turned over to authorities in Cozumel, Mexico, the Carnival Sensation’s next port of call after setting sail from Miami on Thursday for a Caribbean cruise.
Cruise ship companies have an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard whereby they must report rescues of this kind, although they do not have to intervene, the spokesman said.
Pittsburgh Steelers player James Harrison, who was on board the cruise ship, posted photos of the rescue on his Instagram account.
In the photos, the Cubans can be seen on a rickety raft made of metal cans and planks and how one of the cruise ship’s launches approaches to take them on board.
The ship encountered the raft carrying 15 men and a woman approximately 50 nautical miles north of Cuba, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.
The incident comes after on Feb. 13 a Disney cruise ship – also sailing in the Caribbean – rescued 12 Cuban rafters, later turning them over to authorities on Grand Cayman.
Early this month, Cayman Islands authorities reported that more than 120 Cubans had arrived so far this year in their territory.
Some 17,000 Cuban migrants arrived in the United States during the last three months of 2015, almost double the number arriving during the same period the year before.
The increase in Cuban arrivals is evidence of the fear – following the reestablishment of relations between Washington and Havana – that the 1961 Cuban Adjustment Act, which makes it easy for Cuban migrants to acquire U.S. residence, might be overturned.