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9822: Hope dims for 200-plus Haitians (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Saturday, December 1, 2001

Hope dims for 200-plus Haitians

Hope diminished on Friday that at least some of the 200-plus Haitian 
migrants believed missing at sea might really be alive in Jamaica.

Most of the 131 Haitians who landed in Jamaica Nov. 21 were repatriated last 
weekend, while relatives of the missing say they still have not heard 
anything from those who left Ile-a-Vache off Haiti's south coast in two 
boats on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.

Family and friends in the United States are beginning to come to terms with 
the probable loss of their loved ones.


``It's really painful to think there are family members still out there 
suffering,'' said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of 
Miami. ``We don't know where to look now. . . . Our hopes are fading.''

Bastien said she recently spoke to a man from Boston who said he had 13 
family members aboard one of the missing boats.

The community's hopes were buoyed by a story that ran last week in a Jamaica 
newspaper called The Weekly Gleaner that told of the 131 Haitians crammed 
into a 35-foot boat landing at Falmouth on the Jamaican coast almost two 
weeks ago.

The story said most were hungry and dehydrated, but otherwise well, and that 
they had been on the rough seas for five days. Though the name of only one 
of those survivors was used in the story, copies of the story were quickly 
passed throughout the community, one even reaching Washington, D.C.

``They did land here,'' said Shirley Bylfield, a senior public relations 
officer for Jamaica's Ministry of National Security. ``But we're still not 
quite sure where from. We heard they were from Haiti and going to Miami.''

But most of those people already have been sent back to Haiti.

The Haitian consulates in Miami and Washington still believe the Ile-a-Vache 
boats are missing.


Milka Macena a part-time consulate worker in Washington, said she has two 
cousins who were aboard the missing boats, Ernso and Neslene Leger.

``I've been looking for them since the beginning of the month,'' Macena 
said. ``Nobody can tell me anything. I've tried everywhere. My boss is 
trying to contact other embassies.''

Friday afternoon, Gérald Victor, director of the Haitian Consulate in Miami 
released a statement:

The Consulate ``shares the concerns of the community and continues to 
collect information on the subject.''

He requested that anyone with information on any of the passengers to call 
the Consulate at 305-859-2003.

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