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#3822: U.S. holds Haitians; bid to hijack ferry reported (fwd)


WIRE:05/23/2000 21:11:00 ET
 U.S. holds Haitians; bid to hijack ferry reported
MIAMI (Reuters) - More than 120  people on a ferry linking  Haitian
ports were transferred to U.S. Coast Guard cutters  Tuesday off the
Bahamas,hundreds of miles away, after a  possible attempt to hijack the
ferry, the Coast Guard said.  Full details were not available, but a
Coast Guard official  said that three people aboard the Haitian ship --
the captain,  the first mate and a police officer -- had asked for U.S. 
asylum.One of 121 passengers reported that the ferry, which         was 
going from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to another Haitian port,  had
been hijacked, Coast Guard Petty Officer Danielle DeMarino  said.  
DeMarino said that officials of the Immigration and  Naturalization
Service were on their way to the scene, about 30 miles south of the
Bahamas island of Andros and 500 miles  northwest of Haiti, to interview
the three applicants for asylum. FBI agents will investigate the
reported hijacking  attempt, she added.It was not clear how long the
Haitian vessel had been at sea  or who the would-be hijackers were.   
DeMarino said everyone taken off the ferry would receive  food, water
and medical attention on four Coast Guard cutters,which would not leave
until the U.S. agencies had finished  investigating. A growing number of
Haitians have been trying to leave their  poor and politically unstable
country for the United States. The Coast Guard has rescued 700 Haitians
at sea this  year,  many packed into barely seaworthy vessels,
Compared with 480  last year. Illegal Haitian migrants who make it to
U.S. shores  are generally deported.