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#1662: Coast Guard intercepts more than 400 Haitians and Dominicans offshore (fwd)


WIRE:01/01/2000 17:46:00 ET
Coast Guard intercepts more than 400 Haitians and  Dominicans offshore
MIAMI (AP) _ More than 400 would-be migrants packed shoulder-to-shoulder
on a wooden boat had to be persuaded by Coast  Guard crews to abandon
ship after the boat ran aground on a sandbar  early Saturday about a
mile from Key Biscayne.   All 406 Haitians and Dominicans eventually
climbed voluntarily  aboard Coast Guard cutters, said Petty Officer
Scott Carr. He said  the group may have been at sea on the 60-foot
vessel for as long as  five days.  The boat ran aground at 2:30 a.m.
about 1{ miles from the Cape  Florida Lighthouse and near Stiltsville, a
cluster of homes built  on pilings in Biscayne Bay.  With low tide
approaching, Coast Guard officers feared the boat  would capsize. But
when the first Coast Guard cutter approached the  boat, many of the
people on board refused to leave, Carr said.  Coast Guard officers
boarded the boat, handed out life jackets  to the passengers and tried
to explain that the  boat was not safe.  They told the passengers that 
regardless of what happened, they  would not be allowed to enter the
United States, he said.  By 1 p.m., all of the boat's passengers had
been moved to five  waiting Coast Guard cutters.  The passengers are
expected to remain on the cutters until INS  officials make a decision
about their future. Coast Guard officials  said they don't know where
the boat originated or the circumstances  of its voyage.  Under a
Haiti-U.S. agreement, would-be immigrants are returned  once they are
intercepted. Cuban immigrants, however, are generally  allowed to stay
in this country if  they reach land.  In 1999, the Coast Guard rescued
or turned back 363 Haitians and  406 Dominicans trying to reach the
United States.