Bodies found after Haitian migrant boat sinks in Bahamas

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 12:35pm

CNN-- At least 11 people are dead and 13 missing after a boat carrying 28 Haitian migrants ran into trouble while on its way to the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Four of those on board made it safely to shore and raised the alarm with the Bahamas police force, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said.

The Haitians' vessel broke up off Hawksbill Cay in the Bahamas, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent three aircraft, one of them a rescue helicopter, to the scene after Bahamian authorities asked for help, where they recovered 11 bodies, Rios said.

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The United States has long been a destination for migrants from Haiti, with many sailing via the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Boats overflowing with migrants fleeing persecution under the regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier began landing on U.S. shores in the 1970s. Others sought refuge after the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

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In the early 1990s, tens of thousands more Haitians migrated to the United States after the coup d'etat deposing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The January 2010 earthquake that devastated the capital, Port au Prince, and surrounding communities did not result in an immediate wave of mass migration to the United States, as some had feared.

Nonetheless, about 587,000 Haitian-born people were living in the United States as of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens.

That number had climbed from 408,000 in 2000 and 218,000 in 1990, according to a 2010 report by the U.S.-based Center for Immigration Studies, citing earlier census figures.

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Nearly half the migrants from Haiti have settled in Florida, with New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts also attracting sizable communities, the CIS report says. A fifth of Haitian immigrants and their young children residing in the United States live in poverty, it adds.

The Haitian diaspora has traditionally helped its Caribbean homeland recover from natural disasters, with large sums sent back to Haiti in remittances, the Migration Policy Institute says.

The United Nations estimates the January 2010 earthquake affected nearly 3 million people and killed about 220,000. More than 1.5 million people were left homeless in a country that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and racked by crisis.

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