Activists, family members demand release of boat capsizing survivors
MIAMI (WSVN) -- South Florida residents who believe their relatives were among 15 people aboard a boat that capsized off Miami joined Haitian American community leaders Monday in calling for the release of more information about the accident's survivors currently in federal custody.
Federal authorities said four women died and 11 people were rescued when the overloaded 25-foot vessel overturned seven miles east of Miami Beach, Oct. 16. Officials said the survivors were taken into federal custody, and two of them, the boat's captain and a crewman, are now facing federal charges for attempting to illegally smuggle people into the U.S.
Family members of the survivors joined Haitian American activists in front of the Haitian Women of Miami headquarters in asking for the release of all 15 passengers' identities. Demonstrators chanted while they held large signs like "Let my people go" and "President Obama, approve Haitian family reunification now."
"We are standing here together, with the family members of the survivors, to ask the Department of Homeland Security to do due diligence and release those refugees who are now detained at BTC," said Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Haitian Women of Miami, referring to the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility.
Bastien also called on U.S. immigration officials to release the survivors who were detained, so they are able to go through the legal system fairly. "We also believe that, if they are released, they will be able to appropriately prepare [for] whatever case they have," she said.
Bastien said the refugees need to be released so they can seek solace for the deaths they may have witnessed. "We believe that these refugees are traumatized because two of them witnessed the drowning of the four women who perished. We believe that they suffered enough."
"I'm here representing all the parents who have children on the boat," said Dieudonne Alcinor, as Bastien translated from Creole. Alcinor believes her niece and grandchild were on board.
"We are suffering a lot because we don't know where they are, we don't know what happened to them," Alcinor continued.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that because this is a criminal investigation, the survivors' names will not be released anytime soon.
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