Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-----------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-----------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Sport 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


The BBC's Malcolm Brabbant in Miami
The BBC's Malcolm Brabbant in Miami
 real 28k

Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 05:43 GMT
Appeal for Haitian boat people

Haiti boat More than 400 immigrants were packed into the boat


Leaders of the Haitian community in Florida are trying to persuade the authorities to allow more than 400 would-be illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.

The immigrants - most of them from Haiti - were packed into a dangerously overcrowded boat that ran aground off the Florida coast, just south of Miami, in the early hours of New Year's Day.



We've seen an increase in smuggling activity over the holidays. There's a perception that it's easier at this time, but that's false.
Coast Guard Commander Ron LaBrec
US Coast Guard officials managed to take all those on board to safety, racing against changing tidal conditions that threatened to capsize the wooden vessel.

The boat's passengers are currently being held aboard four Coast Guard ships and officials say they will be sent back to Haiti in the next few days. Haitian community leaders in the US say this is unfair

They say that if the immigrants had been from Cuba, they would have been given a chance to ask for asylum.

Equal justice


Coast Guard officials said there was a serious danger the boat would capsize
On Saturday around 100 Haitians living in Miami protested outside the main Coast Guard base to demand equal justice for their compatriots.

Among them was Florida Congresswoman Carrie Meek who had lobbied immigration officials in Washington to allow the boat's human cargo to stay.

Opponents argue that allowing the Haitians to stay would attract further boatloads of impoverished immigrants from America's backyard.

The latest arrivals had mistakenly thought the Americans would let down their guard during the millennium celebrations.

But their boat was intercepted at about 0030 (0530 GMT) near Key Biscayne, a small island just off Miami, as revellers rang in the new millennium and fireworks lit up the sky.

The captain refused orders to stop but the boat ran aground at about 0400 local time in Biscayne Bay.

Rescue operation

Four rescue boats, five patrol boats, two cutters and a helicopter were sent to assist the migrants.



We tried to talk them into stopping. They wouldn't stop [and] continued on their path to try to make it to US soil
Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Carr
Life jackets were handed out to the would-be refugees who packed the vessel from bow to stem. Scores of others were crammed into the lower decks.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Carr said the migrants would be interviewed by agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The most likely outcome is that a Coast Guard cutter will carry the Haitians back to Port-au-Prince.

Thousands of Haitians have attempted the 1000km (600 mile) voyage to Florida's shores, often in small leaky boats.

Most are considered to be fleeing poverty rather than political oppression and are subsequently repatriated.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
Americas Contents

Country profiles

See also:
13 May 98 |  Americas
Miami police hunt for Haitians

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories