Dry Tortugas National Park closed after 300 migrants arrive over past few days

KEY WEST, Fla. – Dry Tortugas National Park temporarily closed to public access Monday to allow law enforcement and medical personnel time to evaluate, provide care for and coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park over the past couple of days.

The closure, which is expected to last several days, is necessary for the safety of visitors and staff because of the resources and space needed to attend to the migrants. Concession-operated ferry and sea plane services are temporarily suspended.

A release from the National Park Service said there has been a recent increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park along with other sites in the Florida Keys.

Park first responders provide food, water and basic medical attention until the Department of Homeland Security arrives and takes the lead.

A statement released from Rear Adm. Brendan C. McPherson, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District and director of Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast, said the task force is aware of multiple migrant vessel landings this weekend on Dry Tortugas National Park and the Marquesas.

“The U.S. Coast Guard and partner federal, state and local components in HSTF-SE are coordinating efforts to recover the individuals currently stranded on the remote, uninhabited islands,” McPherson’s statement said. “They will be removed, provided food, water and any basic first aid they may need before being transferred to federal law enforcement agents in the Keys. From there, they will be transported for processing by regional U.S. Border Patrol stations to determine their legal status to remain in the United States or be processed for removal and repatriation to their country of origin. Irregular, illegal maritime migration is always dangerous and very often deadly. Do not take to the seas.”

While the park is closed, vessels may seek safe harbor in the designated areas within the one nautical mile anchoring zone around Garden Key, including Bird Key Harbor.

There will be no visitor services available while the closure is in effect and emergency services will be extremely limited.

All closures will remain in place until further notice.

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The Dry Tortugas lie almost 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, composed of a cluster of seven islands, made up of coral reefs and sand.

With the surrounding shoals and water, they make up the Dry Tortugas National Park, an area noted for bird and marine life and shipwrecks. Fort Jefferson, its central feature, is one of the nation’s largest 1800s masonry forts.

For more information about Dry Tortugas National Park, visit nps.gov/drto or follow the park on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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