32 Cuban migrants repatriated by U.S. Coast Guard after being picked up recently off South Florida

MIAMI (AP) -- The U.S. Coast Guard has repatriated 32 Cuban migrants who were recently picked up in waters off South Florida and the Keys.

A cutter dropped off the migrants Thursday in Bahia de Cabanas, Cuba. They had been stopped and detained in three different cases this month.

According to a Coast Guard release, the first interdiction occurred April 12 after the Carnival Cruise Ship Conquest notified Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders that they had taken 13 Cuban rafters aboard near Key West. The second interdiction occurred the same day after sector Key West watchstanders learned of a rustic vessel with 17 migrants aboard headed toward Key West. The third interdiction occurred last Tuesday after a Coast Guard cutter on regular patrol located an 18-foot raft near Key Biscayne, Fla., with seven migrants aboard.

"The United States Coast Guard's day-to-day, critical missions including migrant interdiction operations remain steadfast," said Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. "We continue to patrol vigilantly to rescue and repatriate undocumented migrants who take to the sea, and together with our partner agencies, will vigorously investigate and prosecute migrant smuggling and associated crimes. There is a controlled, safe, and legal means of migration to the United States. Failing to follow this process is illegal and needlessly endangers the lives of migrants and those sworn to protect our borders."

According to the release, five of the 37 migrants were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Regarding why five migrants weren't repatriated, the Coast Guard referred inquiries by The Associated Press to Customs and Border Protection. Phone messages and emails left with that agency weren't immediately returned.