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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.