Large group of Haitian migrants arrive in Florida Keys


A wooden boat packed with migrants from Haiti arrived in the shallow waters off Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo Sunday, March 6, 2022.

A large group of migrants from Haiti arrived in a wooden boat off shore of an exclusive gated community in north Key Largo Sunday afternoon.

Initial reports estimate between 150 and 200 people were on board the vessel when it stopped in the shallow water off Ocean Reef Club after 1 p.m., said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

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Dozens of Haitian migrants gather on shore at Ocean Reef Club, a gated community in north Key Largo, Sunday, March 6, 2022. The people are part of a large migrant group that arrived on a wooden boat that day. Jason Rafter/FWC

The people on the boat swam to shore moments after the vessel became grounded.

Haitian migrants are gathered on a wooden vessel that grounded off Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo Sunday, March 6, 2022. Officer Jason Rafter/FWC

Calling it a human smuggling event, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet that an investigation remains ongoing.

Law enforcement sources say it doesn’t appear any of the people who arrived are in need of serious medical attention.

Homeland Security Investigations is the lead agency looking into the incident, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

This is the third large group of migrants stopped between Haiti and the United States in a week, with an estimated total of more than 500 people whom U.S. immigration officials have taken into custody. Two interdictions last week — on Sunday and Friday morning — resulted in 179 and 123 people taken into custody respectively.

Those incidents happened off two separate islands of the Bahamas.

Haitian migrants are gathered on a wooden vessel that grounded off Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo Sunday, March 6, 2022. Jason Rafter/FWC

The Ocean Reef area is also becoming a common spot for large groups of Haitian migrants to arrive in South Florida.

In January, 176 people were stopped near Ocean Reef.

On Christmas Eve, Border Patrol agents took 52 people from Haiti into custody after they arrived by sailboat off a remote two-lane highway that leads to Ocean Reef called Card Sound Road. That landing came after 63 Haitian migrants landed in almost the same location on Card Sound Road, again in an overloaded sailboat.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information is available.

Reporter Omar Rodríguez Ortiz contributed to this report.

This story was originally published March 6, 2022 4:11 PM.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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