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300 migrants land in Florida Keys National Park

300 migrants land in Florida Keys National Park

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KEY WEST, Fla. — A US national park consisting of a group of islands in the Florida Keys was closed on Monday after 300 migrants landed there over the weekend. Separately, 160 migrants arrived by boat in other parts of the archipelago, officials said.

Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Key West, was closed so law enforcement and medical personnel could evaluate the migrants before moving them to Key West, the park tweeted.

“The closure, which is expected to last several days, is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff due to the resources and space required to serve migrants,” park officials said in a statement.

The national park is at the southern tip of the continental United States and attracts divers and snorkelers for its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish and shipwrecks.

“As everywhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park,” the National Park Service said in a press release.

Over the weekend, 160 other migrants landed in the Middle and Upper Keys, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, whose jurisdiction covers the Florida Keys.

US Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet that at least 88 migrants were from Cuba. US Border Patrol and Coast Guard teams patrolling South Florida and the Keys are facing the biggest escalation in boat migration in nearly a decade, with hundreds of interceptions in recent months, mostly of people from Cuba and Haiti.

In a news release, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey criticized the federal response to the surge in migrant arrivals, saying they are stretching local resources. The U.S. Border Patrol told the sheriff’s office that the federal response to some of the migrants could wait a day, the news release said.

“This shows a lack of action plan by the federal government to deal with the problem of mass migration, which was predictable,” Ramsey said.

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