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a107: Cuba sends home more than 200 Haitian migrants thought lost at sea

The Associated Press 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (December 21, 2001 9:29 p.m. EST) - 

More than 200
Haitian migrants feared to have drowned during an ill-fated attempt to
sail to Florida have been returned home from Cuba, a Haitian government
official said Friday. 
They left Haiti in rough seas caused by Hurricane Michelle in early
November aboard two boats, one with 63 passengers and the other with at
least 150. Relatives feared the ships had capsized. 
"The people we thought were lost at sea landed in Cuba," said Carol
Joseph, director of the National Migration Office. They were kept in a
refugee camp before being flown back to Haiti on Thursday and Friday, he
There were about 2,000 known departures of migrants in U.S.-bound boats in
November and December, twice the usual number for the period, Joseph said.
Some 700 landed in Cuba. 
Officials fear Haiti's increasingly desperate economic situation will
prompt a growing number of Haitians to try the risk-fraught voyages. 
Haiti has been mired in crisis since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
party won 80 percent of seats in parliamentary elections last year that
the opposition alleges were rigged. Hundreds of millions of dollars in
international aid have been frozen until some results are revised.