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Haitian Migrants’ Boat Runs Aground

January 1, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ A wooden boat packed with as many as 300 Haitian migrants ran aground near Key Biscayne early Saturday, U.S. Coast Guard officials said. No injuries were reported.

Crew members aboard two Coast Guard cutters spotted the 60-foot vessel at 1 a.m., about five miles south of Key Biscayne. Spokesman Scott Carr estimated the boat was carrying between 200 and 300 people.

``We stayed with the vessel, obviously with great concerns about it being overloaded with a huge group of people without life jackets,″ Carr said.

The boat ran aground at about 2:30 a.m., about 1 1/2 miles from the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne.

Coast Guard spokesman Ron LaBrec said that life jackets had been handed out. Between 110 and 140 of the migrants had agreed to board Coast Guard ships by mid-morning. The rest have refused to leave the boat.

The Coast Guard was enticing them to leave their vessel in favor of shade, food and water.

``We are continuing to try to talk to the people, to talk them off the boat,″ LaBrec said. Most of the migrants speak Creole, so an interpreter was called.

He said no injuries were reported. The migrants may have been at sea for as many as five days.

Under an agreement the United States has with Haiti, would-be immigrants are returned once they are intercepted. This differs from U.S. policy on Cuban immigrants, who are generally allowed to stay if they reach land.

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