FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Coast Guard repatriated 122 Haitian
migrants, three days after taking them off an overcrowded freighter
about 40 miles south of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The migrants were on a 40-foot unseaworthy boat, when a Coast Guard
cutter found them, according to a Coast Guard release.

A total of 2,061 Haitians have been picked up since January,
including those taken to Port-au-Prince Wednesday, the Coast Guard
reported. The numbers have already surpassed those from the past
three years: 1,490 Haitians were caught in 2003, 1,287 in 2002 and
1,956 in 2001.

Coast Guard Lt. Tony Russell attributed this year’s increase to a
spike of refugees in February during the violent political crisis
that led to the ouster of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and
to a few large boats in April.

Marleine Bastien, of the Haitian Grassroots Coalition, said a
“floating Berlin Wall” of U.S. ships monitoring the waters near Haiti
since February may have prevented more would-be refugees from leaving
the island.

The coalition and other Haitian advocacy groups are calling for the
federal government to give Haitians temporary protected status,
allowing them to stay in the U.S. until the situation in Haiti

The groups claim U.S. officials are repatriating refugees without
adequate asylum screening, but immigration officials disagree.

“Anybody who expresses fear will be afforded and given the
opportunity to articulate fear, but we don’t comment on the process
of that asylum,” said Ana Santiago, spokeswoman for the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Service. 

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