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4 Haitian boat survivors released from custody

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October 23, 2013 09:37 AM EST | AP

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MIAMI (AP) — Four Haitians who were among a group of Caribbean nationals found clinging to the hull of their capsized boat off the coast of Miami have been released from federal custody.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had detained the survivors as part of an investigation into the accident that killed four women in the early hours of Oct. 17 seven miles east of Miami.

The four Haitians from that "failed smuggling venture have been processed and are no longer in ICE custody," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Nestor Yglesias said late Tuesday.

Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat, whose elderly uncle died in U.S. custody after fleeing violence in Haiti in 2004, had joined other community leaders Monday to call for the survivors' release.

It was not immediately clear whether another survivor, a Bahamian citizen, remained in detention.

Six other Jamaican and Bahamian survivors each face a federal charge of attempting to re-enter the U.S. after being deported. One also faces an attempted smuggling charge.

Five defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 31 in Miami federal court, and the sixth defendant's arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Two of the victims' families have identified them as two Haitian women, Woodline Alexis and Carmen Valeris, but the other two victims remain unidentified, Larry Cameron, director of operations at the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office, said Wednesday.

Thousands of migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries attempt to illegally enter the U.S. each year by attempting risky sea voyages in overloaded or unseaworthy vessels, often through established smuggling networks that include islands in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.