Miami- With this year’s hurricane season predicted by scientists to be particularly active, it can become a perilous time for illegal immigrants entering the US from Cuba.
Historically, the US Coast Guard has seen desperate Cuban refugees build rafts from anything that will float. First Officer James Akinson said, “We have seen them use bathtubs, Styrofoam and even corrugated metal roofing. All pretty unsustainable building materials.”
Illegal immigrant support charity Cuba Sí says that in the last few weeks, they have anecdotally noted a 75% increase in illegal arrivals in the Miami area . “What we hear from our contacts is that cubans are arriving on boats made of plastic bottles. They are then bringing these bottles to supermarkets and returning them for the deposits. One large plastic boat can get more than $100 of deposit money” explained Rachel Suarez, Regional Director.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a recent immigrant from Cuba said, [translation] “We heard about a rich man who built a boat from plastic bottles. He is our inspiration, because many of us followed his plan and did the same. The boats are very durable and the Americans give you money when you bring bottles back to their stores. Also, it is very sustainable, that’s the important part.”
The US Coast Guard is increasing its night patrols to quell the increase in illegal activity. Akinson laments, “It’s difficult when we intercept a boat in the Caribbean and take all the tired, hungry and desperate cuban refugees on board, because our protocol is to then destroy their vessel. That’s just so much plastic pollution going into the sea, it’s heartbreaking.”