Fourteen stowaways found aboard a sugar boat bound for Baltimore hid for three days in raw sugar bins, eating small amounts of food they had stashed with them and having no idea where the ship would dock.
The stowaways -- males, ranging from 14 to 28 -- fled the Dominican Republic and were discovered Tuesday, three days into the trip, by the ship's crew, according to federal immigration officials who boarded the ship when it docked that night.
The stowaways were being detained yesterday on the ship, docked at the Domino Sugar plant in Locust Point.
The group will remain in Baltimore pending hearings to determine if the stowaways will be sent back, said Thomas E. Perryman, supervisory special agent for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Baltimore.
"They had no idea where they were or where the boat would dock in the U.S.," Mr. Perryman said. "They thought they were in 'Bostimore.' "
The stowaways were found aboard the Gepion, a 22-crew vessel that sails under the Philippine flag. The stowaways are from Barahona, a sugar and coffee producing town of about 72,362 in the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Perryman said an investigation would be launched to determine what, if any, assistance the stowaways had in their attempt to come to the United States.
"It is highly unusual that these people were able to secrete themselves," Mr. Perryman said.
The group was found in two bins -- each about 60 by 30 feet -- and among "mountains" of raw, unrefined sugar that was headed for the Domino Sugar plant in south Baltimore, Mr. Perryman said.
The stowaways, who brought little else except small amounts of food, were surprised at being found but did not resist being detained, he said. The group is being guarded by members of the ship's crew and a private security agency.
"They had some specific people they would call when they got to the United States," Mr. Perryman said. "They came for economic reasons. They would have sent back for others."
The stowaways are subject to exclusion proceedings if found guilty in immigration court of trying to enter the United States without a visa.
Blaine L. Gilbert, a local immigration lawyer, said the stowaways could request political asylum if they fled the Dominican Republic because they felt they were being persecuted by their government or other agents of their country.