[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#3875: Haitians on ferry will be returned (fwd)


Published Friday, May 26, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Haitians on ferry will be returned
 13-year-old boy is only exception BY SANDRA MARQUEZ GARCIA 

 U.S. officials agreed Thursday to return 120 Haitians traveling aboard
a hijacked ferryboat -- granting a single exception to an unaccompanied
13-year-old boy, who will be allowed to make his case for political
asylum in the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service
would not disclose the boy's name, the nature of his asylum claim or the
possible whereabouts of his parents -- saying only that the
 child expressed ``credible fear'' of persecution. The remaining
Haitians -- including 10 men claiming to be Haitian National Police
 officers who allegedly commandeered the vessel -- will be turned over
to authorities in Haiti. Bill Strassberger, an INS spokesman in
Washington, said the decision to repatriate most of the Haitians was
made after a careful consideration of the facts. An INS agent and a
Creole-language interpreter spent two days on board a pair of
 U.S. Coast Guard cutters anchored near Andros Island in the Bahamas
 interviewing passengers from the abducted passenger boat. Only 13 had
 requested political asylum -- the 10 men claiming to be officers, two
crewmen and the child. ``You have to remember that this was not a boat
where everybody got on board with the intention to come to the United
States. This was a  Strassberger said. ``There is no reason for us to
take possession of the boat, or the people, for that matter.'' He said
the 13-year-old boy would most likely be transferred today to Boystown,
a Catholic Charities program under contract to INS as a residence for
minors. ``Because of his particular set of circumstances that he brought
up in the interview, it was decided that we should provide him with
protection,'' Strassberger said. The remaining Haitians are due back in
Port-au-Prince on Saturday -- capping an 11-day journey that began May
16 when a group of 10 men dressed in plain clothes boarded the 120-foot
Gonave Enflech ferryboat and commandeered the vessel at gunpoint. The
captors, who later donned Haitian Police uniforms, tied up the captain
and first officer and demanded to be taken to the United States so they
could apply for political asylum, officials said. After six days in
international waters, the ferryboat ran out of gas and became stranded
30 miles south of Andros Island. In a telephone interview Thursday,
Pierre Denize, director general of the Haitian National Police, said he
was still awaiting word on the names of the alleged hijackers. ``We are
asking the FBI to at least identify these people for us to determine if
they are indeed policemen,'' he said. Denize said the tiny fishing
village of Pestel in southwestern Haiti where the ferryboat was abducted
was home to a police substation -- but none of the officers stationed
there have been reported missing. In the isolated Grand Anse province,
Pestel is nestled in one of Haiti's busiest drug-trafficking corridors.
In the past, some officers who complain they are outgunned by drug
dealers have abandoned their posts, but Denize downplayed the dangers
that might have prompted the alleged officers to seek asylum. ``I think
we should be careful of the folkloric interpretation of the rights to
asylum,'' Denize said. ``Much more than political asylum, we are
preoccupied with the hijacking of a boat.''