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17786: Esser: Trinidad: Haitians on Hunger Strike (fwd)

From: D. Esser torx@joimail.com

Trinidad and Tobago Express:

Haitians on hunger strike

Friday, January 9th 2004

FOUR Haitian stowaways are now on a hunger strike in the State Prison,
Frederick Street, Port of Spain, and one them, 21 year-old Wolf Moises,
attempted to take his life last Friday.

The plight of the Haitians was confirmed last night by Fr Enel Almeurs,
young Haitian priest, who is the chaplain at St Mary's College.

He disclosed that the Haitians arrived in Port of Spain illegally on
November 20.

"They boarded a tourist ship in Port au Prince, thinking it was sailing
Miami, USA. When the boat arrived in Trinidad here, they thought they
in Miami.

"They walked around the town, and when they realised they were in
they reported to the immigration officials," Fr Almeurs said.

Arrangements are being made for their deportation but in the meantime
are suffering in jail, he said.

Almeurs said the Haitians were put in jail on November 22, and Moises,
youngest, was in bad shape.

The others, Baptiste Jean, 34, Smith Auguste 33, and 28-year-old Anouse
Deben, were also on the brink of "doing something stupid", he said.

Fr Almeurs said his compatriots went on a hunger strike as a result of
horrible conditions at the prison. They were so fed up and disgusted
they wanted to die.

"I fear the worst," said the young priest shortly after hearing
at St Mary's College.

Fr Almeurs said he visited his countrymen in prison and they had on the
same dingy clothes they were wearing when they arrived here on November

"They have nothing. No clothes. No shoes," said Fr Almeurs, who first
about the plight of the Haitians from a Carmelite nun following a
at the prison chapel.

On his recent trip to the USA, Prime Minister Patrick Manning was asked
President George Bush to try and do something about the mounting
crisis in poverty-stricken Haiti.

But officials at the Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on
the plight of the four Haitians.

Immigration officials, however, said arrangements were being made to
the Haitians back to Port au Prince, but refused to elaborate.

Prison authorities admitted that the Haitians were in custody and were
treated just like any other "detainee or prisoner".

"The jail is not really the Trinidad Hilton," one officer commented.

But Almeurs insisted that the Haitians should not have been treated in
an "inhumane manner".

"They made a mistake. They did something wrong, and all they are asking
now is to go back to their homeland. They speak no English. I am the
person they can relate to in this country," he said.

Fr Almeurs added that he had been in contact with the Jamaica-based
Consulate to Trinidad and Tobago but progress has been too slow to get
Haitians out of Port of Spain.

Meantime, activist Hazel Brown, a member of the Emancipation Support
Committee who returned recently from Haiti, said she was surprised at
problems experienced by the four Haitians at a time like this.

"I will definitely do something today when I get all the facts," Brown