BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird said Tuesday his country and Dominica will accept Haitian refugees as part of U.S. efforts to stem the flow of refugees fleeing to the United States. He said at a Caribbean Community meeting in Barbados that Antigua, a West Indian nation with a population of 60,000, would accept 2,000 refugees, but did not know how many Dominica would take in.
The agreement comes on the heels of the U.S. announcement that the United States will not grant political asylum to Haitians fleeing their nation by boat. Instead, the fleeing Haitians will be brought to 'safe haven' holding centers in the two West Indian nations and Panama, which announced late Monday it would accept up to 10,000 refugees. Thousands of Haitians have attempted to flee to the United States in recent months in search of political asylum because of the de facto military government in the Caribbean nation, which U.S. and U.N. officials are trying to oust. Bahamas officials said at the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, meeting that they are willing to help in the Haitian situation, but have not been more specific. Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford said his country is still studying the issue. Earlier Tuesday, Saint Vincent Prime Minister James Mitchell said Caribbean leaders still had reached no consensus on the use of military intervention if economic sanctions do not force Haiti's de facto government to step down. U.S. and U.N. efforts to force a return of exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown in a 1991 military coup, have thus far failed. Officials have increasingly discussed the possibility of a military intervention.