Mexico frees Cubans found at sea, some bound for U.S.

A Mexican immigration official said that the Cuban government had not recognized the survivors as its citizens.

Mexico frees Cubans found at sea, some bound for U.S.

World Bulletin/News Desk

Mexico on Tuesday released 14 Cuban migrants rescued at sea by its navy this month, some of whom headed for the United States by bus to take advantage of a U.S. policy that allows Cubans arriving by land to stay.

The Cubans, who were without food and survived by drinking rain water, were intercepted off the Yucatan peninsula badly sunburned and dehydrated after three weeks adrift at sea, and Mexico's government had said they would likely be deported.

Only 15 survived the journey from Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, with 15 dying at sea, and two more dying after they were rescued. One migrant had already been released and is in the United States.

The group set off on August 7, and were forced to fashion a makeshift sail for their vessel after the motor failed early in the journey.

A Mexican immigration official said on Monday that the Cuban government had not recognized the survivors as its citizens. The Cuban government has not commented on the case.

They were released from an immigration center in Chetumal on the Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday and the group split into two. Some made for the southeastern city of Villahermosa and said they were on the way to the U.S. border, while the rest headed for the Yucatan capital of Merida.

Jose Caballero, the husband of one of the rescued women confirmed that his wife, Maylin Perez, had been released.

"My wife just called. We spoke very briefly," he said, explaining she was using a borrowed cellphone and asked him to send money to pay the bus fare to the U.S. border.

"I'm running now to send the money," he added.

Caballero left Cuba by the same route in December and is now a maintenance worker at a trucking company in Austin, Texas.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot policy" of the United States, Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are turned back.

Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are heading in increasing numbers to Central America or southern Mexico and then making a long journey overland to reach the United States.

U.S. authorities say 16,200 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

On Monday, just days after Mexico's foreign minister visited the Communist-run island, a Mexican immigration official said the 14 were being released on humanitarian grounds, and would be given legal residency.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Eylül 2014, 22:59

Muhammed Öylek