Saturday, July 5, 2003

Coast Guard repatriates Haitian migrants

                  MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- A U.S. Coast Guard cutter returned more than 450
                  Haitian migrants to Port-au-Prince Saturday after they were intercepted
                  at sea on two dangerously overcrowded boats earlier this week, the
                  Coast Guard said.

                  A Coast Guard helicopter spotted 146 migrants on a boat off the Bahamas on
                  Wednesday, and on Thursday, a 40-foot vessel carrying 319 migrants was also
                  spotted off the Bahamas. The migrants were taken onto Coast Guard cutters.

                  The Coast Guard determined the migrants' boats were a "hazard to navigation" and
                  destroyed them.

                  "Too many times in the past we have seen vessels sailing in severely overloaded
                  conditions like these result in unnecessary deaths," said Coast Guard spokesman
                  Lt. Tony Russell.

                  One migrant was taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and turned over to immigration
                  officials for further questioning.

                  It is standard U.S. policy to repatriate migrants picked up at sea, after brief shipboard
                  interviews by immigration officials.

                  Thousands of Haitians each year risk dangerous voyages aboard rickety, crowded
                  boats in search of economic opportunities in the United States. Haiti is the
                  hemisphere's poorest country. Two-thirds of its population is unemployed or

                  Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.