US prepares Gitmo for Haitians

2010-01-21 11:25

Cuba - The US has begun preparing tents at Guantanamo Bay for Haitian migrants in case of a mass migration spurred by the earthquake, a senior official at the base said on Wednesday.

About 100 tents, each capable of holding 10 people, have been erected and authorities have more than 1 000 more on hand in case waves of Haitians leave their homeland and are captured at sea, said Navy Rear Adm Thomas Copeman.

Authorities have also tested the latrine facilities and gathered cots and other supplies, said Copeman, the commander of the task force that runs the detention centre for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, where the US holds nearly 200 men.

The Haitian migrants would be held on the opposite side of the base as the detention centre, separated by water across Guantanamo Bay, and would have no contact with the prisoners.

US immigration officials have said they will fast-track applications for a federal designation that will allow illegal Haitian immigrants to live and work temporarily in this country, but only if they were in the US on the day of the January 12 earthquake.

The US base in southeastern Cuba is also being used to transport supplies and personnel to the aid effort in Haiti.

In the early 1990s, it housed tens of thousands of Haitian boat people were held at Guantanamo until they could be sent home.