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8566: Haitians repatriated from Guantanamo (fwd)
Haitian migrants repatriated after landing in Cuba
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 23
Haitians on Thursday after their Florida-bound boat went off course and
landed instead at a U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba.
They were among 33 Haitians who boarded a 24-foot (7.3-metre) vessel on June
24 in the southern seaside town of Les Cayes in a bid to reach Florida. Heavy
winds forced them to land four days later at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, some 500 miles (800 km) short of their goal.
"It was too windy and that was the only course we could steer," one of the
migrants said. "We were trying to get to Miami."
U.S. immigration officials were still interviewing the other 10 Haitians, who
sought political asylum in the United States
Every year thousands of Haitians flee their impoverished country in rickety
sea vessels in an attempt to find a better life in the United States. Haiti,
where around 80 percent of the population lives in abject poverty, is the
hemisphere's poorest country. Two-thirds of the population suffers from
Marc Cawthorn, a Coast Guard liaison officer for the U.S. Embassy in
Port-au-Prince, said the U.S. Coast Guard has repatriated 1,160 Haitians
since Oct. 1, 2000.
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