Anticipating a major increase in the number of Haitian boat people, the Clinton administration expects to process about 2,000 Haitians a week when it begins reviewing applicants for refugee status this month on a ship off Jamaica's coast, U.S. officials said Monday.
That rate is far higher than the 130 Haitian boat people that the Coast Guard has stopped each week so far this year. Administration officials foresee such a large increase because they expect Haitians to be encouraged by President Clinton's decision last month to grant individual interviews instead of forcibly returning Haitians without hearings.Those Haitians who are found to have a well-founded fear of persecution will be moved to a site outside Jamaica, perhaps Guantanamo Bay, for medical examinations, before they are brought to the United States, administration officials said. The Coast Guard will take back to Haiti those found not to have a well-founded fear of persecution.
A 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship, the Comfort, was to leave Jacksonville, Fla., Tuesday and begin processing Haitians around June 13. Officials involved in planning the processing said the Coast Guard would pick up boatpeople off Haiti and take them to Kingston Harbor. They will be interviewed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
To help the Haitians, the administration has agreed to let officials from the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees board the Comfort to explain to the Haitians how the interviews would be conducted and to answer their questions.