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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Miami
Deportation branded racist
 real 28k

Monday, 3 January, 2000, 15:58 GMT
Haitian boat people repatriated

boat The Haitians arrived on New Year's Day hoping to start a new life

The United States Coast Guard is sending more than 400 would-be immigrants back to Haiti despite appeals to let them stay.

All but four of the 411 migrants who arrived by boat on New Year's Day were heading back to Haiti early on Monday aboard US ships.

The 600-mile voyage usually takes about two days.

protestors Protestors say Haitians are descriminated against
Of the 411 passengers, 16 are Dominican, two are Chinese and the rest are Haitian, Coast Guard officials said.

Four Haitian women - three of them pregnant - were brought ashore for medical reasons and remained in Miami for treatment at local hospitals.

Those four are expected to be returned later, said Mike Gilhooly, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.


The return of the migrants sparked protests from Haitian activists in Miami, who criticised US laws that treat Cuban and Haitian migrants differently.

"I'm very disappointed that INS once more has decided to continue its racist policy towards the Haitians and failed once more to give them the right to a fair and due process," said Marleine Bastien, president of Haitian Women of Miami.

The migrants were found packed shoulder-to-shoulder on a 60ft wooden boat that ran aground about a mile from shore, shortly after midnight on New Year's Day. The ship apparently had been at sea for at least five days, authorities said.

After the boat ran aground on a sandbar, Coast Guard crews tossed life jackets on board and told the migrants that, no matter what, they would not be allowed to enter the United States.

Haiti v Cuba

Cubans generally are allowed to remain in the United States if they reach shore. But under an agreement with Haiti, those who arrive without proper documentation are deported.

Hundreds chanted slogans and carried signs outside the Coast Guard station in Miami Beach for a second day on Sunday, in an effort to get federal officials to allow the group into the US.

A few elected representatives joined the rally, adding political muscle to the event.

Others mentioned the debate over Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy who was found adrift on Thanksgiving Day after a boat he and his mother were on sank.

Gonzalez is living with relatives in Florida while his father and the Cuban Government seek his return.

Gonzalez "came here, and we opened our hearts, but I don't see that happening with the Haitian people," said Ismael Clerveaux, a rally participant.

In 1999, the Coast Guard rescued or turned back 363 Haitians and 406 Dominicans trying to reach the United States.

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See also:
03 Jan 00 |  Americas
US churches support Cuban campaign
02 Jan 00 |  Americas
Appeal for Haitian boat people
13 May 98 |  Americas
Miami police hunt for Haitians
02 Jan 00 |  Americas
Boat people await US asylum decision

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