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Americas

Dozens of Haitian migrants drown off Cuban coast

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-25

At least 38 Haitian migrants were killed when their boat sank after being stranded at sea. Another 87 people were rescued on Saturday and moved to a migrants camp at Point Maisi off the Cuban coast.

AFP - The Cuban military searched for survivors Sunday after at least 38 Haitian migrants died as a boat in which they fled their country started taking in water and got stranded at sea.

The gruesome discovery was made Saturday when the Cuban Coast Guard found the half-sunken boat about 100 meters (yards) off Point Maisi on the eastern shore of the communist-ruled island, the Cuban government said.

A statement from the Cuban Civil Defense agency read on state television said the dead included 21 men and 17 women.

Another 87 people, including four children and seven women, were rescued and moved to an international migrants' camp at Point Maisi, where they have been given assistance, the statement said.

The Civil Defense agency did not elaborate on the cause of the shipwreck. But rusty, decrepit and overcrowded boats carrying migrants from Haiti are often found in distress in the Caribbean Sea.

A similar tragedy occurred in July 2009 off the coast of Turks and Caicos Islands when a boat carrying dozens of Haitian migrants capsized and sank, forcing its passengers to jump overboard.

The US Coast Guard managed to rescue 118 of the migrants, but at least 15 were found dead and about 70 others remained missing.

In 2007, a boat with at least 160 Haitians sank in the Caribbean Sea, leaving 82 passengers dead. According to survivors, some of the victims were eaten by sharks swarming the warm waters of the area.

Cuban officials said the Coast Guard and Red Cross continued searching for for more survivors around Point Maisi.

Under Cuban immigration procedures, migrants from Haiti who reach the island's coast are usually given food and medical assistance before being sent back home.

Thousands of Haitian boat people had been also arriving in the United States since the early 1970s and settling in Miami, Florida.

But in 1981, Washington and Port-au-Prince reached an agreement under which boats with Haitian migrants are interdicted at sea and their passengers returned to Haiti.

Under the agreement, by 1984, more than 3,100 Haitians had been deported by the United States back to their country, according to the US Library of Congress.

But the migration continues. There are an estimated 1.2 million Haitians now living in the United States, about 200,000 in Canada and an estimated one million in the Dominican Republic. Up to 80,000 Haitians are believed to have settled in the Bahamas.

Haiti is still recovering from a devastating 7.0-magnitude quake in January 2010 that leveled the capital, killed more than 225,000 people, and left one in seven people homeless in a nation that was already the poorest in the Americas.

The humanitarian situation has been further aggravated by a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 5,000 people, food insecurity affecting 4.5 million and an active hurricane season that destroyed homes and crops.

 

Date created : 2011-12-25

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