Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida Keys closes after hundreds of migrants arrive

National Park Service

(KEY WEST, Fla.) -- Dry Tortugas National Park announced it would close on Monday after multiple migrant landings throughout the region over the past couple days shut down operations at the park.

A statement released by the park says it will "temporarily close to public access while law enforcement and medical personnel 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."

 A spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard would not confirm if the National Park's estimate of how many migrants arrived is accurate, but said the Homeland Security Task Force is currently rescuing several migrants from uninhabited islands in the park.

"Homeland Security Task Force - Southeast is aware of multiple migrant 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," Rear Adm. Brendan C. McPherson, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District and director of Homeland Security Task Force, said in a statement.

Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a 100-square-mile park accessible only by boat or seaplane. It's made up of seven small islands.

The closure "is expected to last several days," a statement released by the park said.

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

Enid Magari said he was camping in Dry Tortugas National Park when he saw groups of migrants arriving on shore.

"I was camping at Dry Tortugas for New Years. When we arrived on Dec 31st there were ~80 migrants, by mid day Jan 1 there were close to 300 and we were informed we needed to leave the island. I witnessed 4 such landings myself…," Magari tweeted.

One video Magari captured appears to show a row of vessels on the sand.

"The shouts of relief and tears of joy will stick with me for the rest of my life," Magari tweeted.

The migrants are being given food and first aid and will be first transferred to federal law enforcement agents in the Keys. Rear Adm. McPherson said.

"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," he said. 

Monday, January 2, 2023 at 3:32PM by Armando Garcia, ABC News Permalink