This evening my twitter feed came alive with a number of fascinating tweets by passengers sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas as it sailed between Florida and Cuba.
The passengers, Jason Cochran, whose Twitter name is @Bastable and has a cool website, and "Nomadic Matt" (I could not figure out his real name) who Twitter name is @nomadicmatt and who has a neat travel website, tweeted about their cruise ship sailing across something strange – 18 refugees in a raft.
Actually encountering rafters on the high seas is not particularly strange at all.
I have blogged a lot about cruise ships "rescuing" Cuban refugees. (Just click on the "Rescue" category to the left to read a couple of articles.) For some strange reason, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are most likely to sail upon rafters trying to escape the oppressive regime in Cuba. Why Royal Caribbean? I have no idea. Most of the clueless cruisers think that the rafters are "saved" and about to be invited into the U.S.
The problem is that the Cubans are never "rescued." The cruise line usually takes them on the ship, calls the U.S. Coast Guard who sails out to the scene, and the Coast Guard processes the refugees and sails them back to Cuba where they end up in Castro’s jails.
But today was different. The tweeters explained that the crew of the Oasis brought food and water to the refugees, but the refugees didn’t want to be "rescued." They knew the U.S. Coast Guard would arrive and they wanted to leave.
There are some people who understand this perfectly well – @shaneyhudson – a travel writer from Australia, tweeted "Coast guard would rather them drown than let them touch US shore. Will tow them back." He’s right. Its rare to hear someone more bitter than me about these type of things.
Bastable tweeted: "The Oasis is now leaving the raft behind, slowly turning east. No Coast Guard cutter yet. Goodbye. We hope things turn out for you."
I agree Bastable, A tragic tale, indeed.
Let’s hope the winds and currents and the grace of God bring the refugees ashore tonight and they plant their feet on U.S. soil and can begin free lives here in America.
Photo credit: Bastable