Cuban migrants come ashore on Miami beach

MIAMI (Reuters) - A group of 12 Cuban migrants in a makeshift sailboat - 11 men, a woman and a dog - washed onto the tourist-lined sands of Miami Beach on Tuesday to cheers from onlookers on the beach.

They were at sea for six days after leaving from the north-coast town of Caibarién, the Miami Herald reported.
One of the men, Laudel Borges, 21, told the newspaper: "I want to work and enjoy freedom."

Under the United States' "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil on smuggler vessels without visas are permitted to stay, unlike any other nationality. Those caught at sea, however close to shore, are repatriated unless they need urgent medical attention or can show they would suffer political persecution on return to Cuba.

Images posted online by the Miami Herald showed a small rust-colored boat with a stained sail on the sand and Miami Beach's Art Deco hotels in the background.

A YouTube video showed the makeshift sailboat approaching the shore before its mostly shirtless, sunburned passengers jumped into the surf with a dog they called Chiquitica (little one). They appeared to be in good health.

The migrants were greeted on the sand by people cheering and shouts of welcome. "You guys made it, bro," one bystander said.

Despite the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the US Coast Guard says the number of Cuban migrants seeking to reach U.S. shores by sea in 2015 has surpassed last year's total.

During the agency's 2015 fiscal year, which runs to the end of September, the number has totaled 4,235, including 325 arriving, being forced back or intercepted, in the past 10 days. That compared with 3,731 in fiscal 2014.

"It's a constant flow," said US Coast Guard spokesman Mark Barney.

Thousands more Cubans have crossed into the United States via the border with Mexico, which has become an increasingly popular route.