More Cubans are coming to the US by sea than at any time since the 1990s

US Coast Guard crews have intercepted more than 6,000 Cubans since last October, according to the agency, the most in a single event since the 1990s.

“We’ve seen this before. It’s a natural phenomenon. However, it’s very worrying for us to see the increase and that we’re seeing more people on ships that aren’t doing so well, putting a significant number of these people in a very dangerous risk of losing their lives,” said Walter Slosar. Senior patrol officers of the Miami Sector.

Cubans have been fleeing the island for years, but recent unrest, persecution and shortages of basic goods have prompted more to leave.

“Individuals have come forward with stories of persecution by the local government for not being able to participate in certain events, for not agreeing with the local and communist politics of the island. It’s not just them, but many stories of family members, friends.” apprehended, arrested for minor, non-criminal offenses,” said David Claros, director of Immigration Legal Services at Church World Service, adding that he is hiring more staff to meet the demand.

Patrols here are complicated by varying terrain and require coordination between land, air and sea agencies. CNN has recently embedded with US Customs and Border Protection Air and Maritime Operations, the US Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.

The agencies will work together to identify and interdict migrants so they can be repatriated. If they make it to land, however, they are placed under Border Patrol custody.

As the Coast Guard tries to intercept migrants before they reach US shores, thousands have come ashore. So far this year, border officials have made nearly 3,600 arrests in the Miami Sector, which covers more than 1,200 miles of Florida coastline, up from just over 1,000 last year.

Authorities are encountering a wide range of vessels at sea and on land, from surfboards tied together to boats with limited supplies and no navigation systems, often for a days-long journey. Just an hour into a Coast Guard patrol, the crew spotted a vessel with about eight people in the sea.

And they are not only Cubans. Officials are grappling with a growing number of Haitian migrants traveling by sea. The Coast Guard has responded to incidents involving large vessels carrying dozens, if not hundreds, of Haitian migrants, putting those on board at great risk.

“The conditions on board were horrible,” said Coast Guard maritime interdiction agent Mark Lamphere, recalling a vessel that washed up on the Florida coast earlier this year.

“There were reports of injured people in the helmet, so I had to jump down and it was obvious that I was standing alone,” he said. Two hundred of them gathered there, defecating and urinating where they are standing.”

Slosar has accepted the request for resources to deal with new trends.

“We’re all working with limited resources, and when we come across these people, you don’t know who’s on that boat. It’s our job to understand who’s coming into the country. It takes time for our agents to come in and take care of them, make sure they’re healthy and clean and fed and that they are safe and then identify exactly who they are,” he said.