Coast Guard crews rescue 8 people, recover 2 bodies off Florida Keys; 5 still missing

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for several missing people in the waters off the Florida Keys.

Coast Guard crews along with Customs and Border Protection agents and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers responded to the Lower Keys Friday afternoon after receiving multiple reports of people in the water.

Eight people were rescued, officials said, while two bodies were recovered. They later confirmed there were 15 people total in the water.

As of Friday afternoon, five people were still considered missing.

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It is unclear if the people are from a passenger vessel or if they were migrants attempting to enter the United States.

According to WSVN, 12 migrant groups totaling 108 people from Cuba have been stopped in the Florida Keys in the past two days alone.

The Coast Guard routinely returns people interdicted at sea to their country of origin. Those arriving in the U.S. generally are taken into custody and face deportation unless they have viable asylum claims.

The Miami Herald reported that Cuban migration by sea has recently seen a dramatic spike, with the Coast Guard reporting that 838 were intercepted on such journeys during the 2021 fiscal year. In 2020, the number was just 49.

RELATED: More Cubans attempt dangerous trip to US across Florida Straits

Migration from Cuba had waned after then-President Barack Obama in 2017 ended the "wet foot, dry foot" policy in which Cubans who made it to U.S. soil were generally allowed to stay, while those stopped at sea were returned home.

Experts say the increase is due to deteriorating economic and political conditions within the island nation.