SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
Cuban refugees greet reporters Monday morning
at the Longboat Key police station after landing
on Beer Can Island before dawn. Officials say
they will be allowed to stay in the country.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
LONGBOAT KEY Sunburned but happy,
25 Cuban refugees got an early Christmas present when
a boat dropped them off on Beer Can Island Monday before
They were standing at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Northshore
Drive when Longboat Key Police Deputy Chief Martin Sharkey
"They know the drill," he said once on
dry land, theyre here to stay, and if they just
wait, help will come.
The refugees, still in culture shock after a trip down
lush Gulf of Mexico Drive to the Longboat Key police station,
waited in a fenced area for about three hours until the
Immigration and Nationalization Service arrived to transport
them to Tampa.
The police provided breakfast to the group, which required
no medical attention, Sharkey said. Ortiz Landscaping
donated T-shirts for those who needed them.
The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the boat that transported
the refugees, he said.
The refugees arrived they day after U.S. lawmakers visiting
Cuba were told that ailing leader Fidel Castro is not
terminally ill. He has not appeared publicly since July
26, the anniversary of his revolution.