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46 more Haitian refugees arrive from Guantanamo Bay

The largest group yet of Haitian political refugees carrying the HIV virus arrived here Thursday from the U.S. Navy detention compound in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Forty-six people, all single adults, arrived at Miami International Airport aboard an Air Force C-130 after spending up to 20 months in a legal limbo at the makeshift camp.

"They look fine. They don't look like they have any debilitating illness," said Jay LaRoche, spokesman for the Justice Department. None has full-blown AIDS, military doctors said.

Twenty-seven people, including six children, arrived Monday in the first group freed under a June 8 court order issued by a judge who called the detention center "an HIV prison camp."

The 67 refugees remaining in Cuba are expected to be in the United States by the end of next week, said LaRoche. No more flights are scheduled this week.

The first two flights have gone off without a hitch, said LaRoche.

"For those people who are here, all the systems worked," he said.

All but two of the eight women and 38 men who arrived Thursday are going to relatives already living in the country. Those two will stay with sponsors found in New York City by Yale University's Lowenstein Center for Human Rights and the Coalition for the Homeless. Thirty-three will remain in Florida.

Although the Haitians held at Guantanamo were deemed to have a credible fear of political persecution in Haiti, they were denied entry into the United States because of a federal ban on HIV-infected immigrants.

But U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. of New York ordered the 142 refugees released, calling their camp squalid.

Resettlement agencies will be monitoring the Haitians for a year.

Meanwhile, members of Congress from Florida, Massachusetts and New York will ask President Clinton today to pay the states an estimated $1.8-million to take care of the HIV-infected Haitians coming from Cuba.