Published Wednesday, September 18, 1996, in the Miami

8 Cuban rafters are intercepted; INS mulls fate

             Herald Staff Writer

             Eight Cubans trying to reach the coast of Florida on a 12-foot
             boat were intercepted Sunday morning near Long Key, a U.S.
             Coast Guard spokesman said Tuesday.

             Seven of the boat's passengers were taken aboard the cutter
             Monhegan. They are still being interviewed by officials of the
             U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, to ascertain if
             they can prove ``a credible fear of persecution'' if they are
             returned to Cuba.

             One passenger was taken to Fisherman's Hospital in Marathon.
             He was given a humanitarian visa and was permitted to remain
             in the United States.

             ``The flow of rafters has remained quite constant so far this
             year,'' said David French, spokesman for the Coast Guard. ``We
             haven't had periods of the year with large numbers [of
             migrants] as we did in previous years.''

             The Coast Guard has intercepted 27 rafters in September. So
             far this year, interceptions total 256, ``significantly less
             than in previous years,'' French said.

             The number of Cubans attempting to cross the Florida Straits
             has diminished considerably since May 1995, when Washington
             announced it would return them to Cuba.

             In 1994, 37,139 rafters were rescued by the Coast Guard; in
             1995, the number was 626.

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1996 The Miami Herald.