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#1688: United States Repatriating Caribbean Boat People (fwd)


United States Repatriating Caribbean Boat People 
01:13 a.m. Jan 03, 2000 Eastern 

 MIAMI (Reuters) - More than 400 Haitian, Dominican and Chinese migrants
whose boat ran aground off Miami on New Year's Day were on their way
back to Haiti early Monday aboard a pair of U.S. Coast Guard
cutters.     Two women passengers had been brought ashore for medical
treatment and were allowed to stay in Miami at least temporarily. One
suffered complications from pregnancy and the other suffered convulsions
and high fever.  The remaining 404 passengers were aboard two Coast
Guard      cutters that left for Haiti early Monday. ``All the migrants
are scheduled to go back, except the medical cases,'' Coast Guard Lt.
Carl Messalle said. ``They just started.''  He said the trip would take
two or three days. The migrants were aboard a dangerously overloaded
60-foot freighter that ran aground off Miami's Key Biscayne early
Saturday after trying to outrun a Coast Guard patrol. Most are Haitians
but the group included a few Dominicans and Chinese. The Coast Guard
said they would be sent back to Haiti under a 1981 treaty between the
United States and Haiti, which allows  the Coast Guard to intercept and
return passengers trying to  enter the United States illegally aboard
Haitian vessels. 
Thousands of Haitians have attempted the 600-mile voyage from their
impoverished Caribbean homeland to Florida, usually in unseaworthy
sailboats or small, leaky coastal freighters. Most  are considered to be
fleeing poverty rather than political oppression and are
repatriated.     It was the largest group of Haitians intercepted off
Florida in    more than a year. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 363 
Haitians at sea last year, compared to 1,206 in 1998.  Fearing the
stranded boat would capsize, Coast Guard crews carefully unloaded the
migrants and took them aboard the cutters. Dozens of Haitians and blacks
demonstrated peacefully outside the Coast Guard base on Miami Beach on
Saturday and  Sunday, demanding that the migrants be allowed to
stay.             Haitian-Americans have long protested against the
different treatment accorded Haitian and Cuban migrants trying to reach
Florida. While Haitians are usually sent back home immediately,Cubans
who manage to set foot on U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay and
are ultimately given permanent residency.