Tough US line fails to halt Cubans

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The Independent Online
MIAMI - The flow of people from Cuba to the waters off Florida continued yesterday despite the US decision to turn away the refugees.

Coast Guard officials said 900 Cubans had been picked up by early afternoon, most from makeshift rafts made from inner tubes and wood. Another 1,293 were rescued on Sunday, the highest one- day total since the Mariel boatlift in 1980, when 125,000 Cubans reached southern Florida. The Coast Guard said it had rescued 6,418 Cubans this month and 11,449 this year.

Several Caribbean countries are expected to announce shortly that they will provide safe havens for Cuban refugees, a senior US State Department official said yesterday. Peter Tarnoff, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, declined to identify the countries or say how many Cubans they would accept.

US Coast Guard officials said they were concerned about the number of Cubans likely perish trying to make the 90-mile crossing to Florida but had no way of telling how many die at sea. Empty, capsized boats and rafts are a common sight. William Perry, the Defense Secretary, yesterday urged Cubans not to take to the sea. 'It's a very dangerous operation,' he said.

Last week the US changed its policy towards Cubans picked up at sea. They are now are taken to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those who reach Florida are held at a detention centre near Miami.

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