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US

U.S. Coast Guard removes Haitians from boat stopped near Miami

boat
The Coast Guard begins taking Haitians off a boat intercepted in Biscayne Bay, off Florida  

January 1, 2000
Web posted at: 5:51 p.m. EST (2251 GMT)

MIAMI -- The U.S. Coast Guard has removed all Haitian refugees from a stranded freighter in Miami's Biscayne Bay, placing them in Coast Guard vessels offshore.

Officials believe some of the refugees are Dominican migrants. Earlier, the Coast Guard transferred 80 of the at least 300 refugees off the freighter, which was intercepted about a mile off the Florida coast.

Petty Officer Robert Swanson said the boat, packed with people, was spotted during a routine patrol at 12:38 a.m. but tried to flee. The 60-foot wooden vessel eventually ran aground near Stiltsville, which is south of Miami.

Overnight, the Coast Guard sent a translator to begin a dialogue with the refugees on the 60-foot wooden freighter.

The Coast Guard said three of its small boats and two 110-foot cutters were on the scene, and two more cutters were to arrive. A helicopter was also being used in the interdiction.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Scott Carr said this is the first large group of Haitian refugees intercepted since 464 Haitians were stopped and sent back to their homeland in October 1998. Another large group of refugees was returned in September 1998.

Weather and sea conditions were calm. Carr said he estimated the trip from Haiti to Florida would take such a boat four to seven days. The Coast Guard policy is to return Haitians to their country.



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