US Turns Back Haitians At Sea

A US Coast Guard cutter on Thursday took 78 Haitians picked up on an overloaded sailboat off the Bahamas back to their quake ravaged country, delivering them to Cap Haitien, officials said.

The repatriation signalled US determination to turn back Haitian boat people even though it is letting Haitians already illegally in the United States stay for the time being because of the January 12 quake.

The Coast Guard said there were no indications that more Haitians than usual were leaving the country by sea, but said it was on the lookout for that possibility and had stepped up patrols in the Caribbean.

“Voyages in unseaworthy, grossly overloaded vessels are inherently dangerous and pose a serious threat to the safety of migrants from the moment they set sail until the moment they are safely aboard our cutters,” it said.

The Haitians were picked up Saturday when their overloaded 30-foot sailboat was spotted by the Royal Bahamian Defense Force 13 miles west of Great Exuma Island, Bahamas.

“Bahamian officials then contacted the Department of State to request assistance in repatriation efforts,” the Coast Guard said.

The State Department coordinated the repatriation authorizing a Coast Guard cutter to pick up the migrants and take them to Cap Haitien. In the 2010 fiscal year which started on October 1, the Coast Guard has interdicted 122 Haitian nationals. In the 2009 fiscal year, the Coast Guard picked up 1,782 Haitian nationals trying to reach the United States by sea.


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