Vol 7 No. 13 - December 20, 2006

Cuban refugees come ashore on Longboat Key

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 dawn.

They were standing at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Northshore Drive when Longboat Key Police Deputy Chief Martin Sharkey arrived.

"They know the drill," he said – once on dry land, they’re 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.

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