There are chaotic scenes at the airport of Port-au-Prince. Haitians deported from the United States tried to get back on the plane on Tuesday. You are among the thousands who camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas on the border with Mexico. And now find themselves in the Haitian capital. Some tell journalists that they were not told where they were being sent.
Some also state that their home country is now foreign to them – they do not now know where to go. Most of the Haitian migrants under the bridge did not come directly from Haiti, but had emigrated to South America years ago. “Haiti is hell for these people,” says the head of the Haitian Migration Agency, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva. The Caribbean country lacks the means to take care of them.
In May the US government decided to grant Temporary Protection Status (TPS) to those Haitians who who live in the USA and meet certain criteria. Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas said: “Haiti is currently experiencing serious security problems, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty and a lack of basic resources, all of which is exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The situation in America’s poorest state has not gotten any better since then – on the contrary. On the night of July 7th, President Jovenel Moïse was shot dead by a commando in his residence. The crime has not been resolved to this day – quarrels within the interim government recently hampered the investigation. There has been no quorum parliament since the beginning of 2020. Elections were actually planned for next Sunday – when they can really take place is in the stars.
Fights between gangs for territory paralyze parts of the capital again and again and lead to supply bottlenecks. Kidnappings are on the agenda. The south is often cut off from the rest of the country because the gangsters block the main road.
This also makes relief operations more difficult after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in southwest Haiti, which killed more than 2,200 people in mid-August. According to the UN, around 650,000 people were still in urgent need of help a month later. One million people in the region are expected to suffer from acute food shortages in the coming months. The already overused health system is already overwhelmed by the pandemic.
On August 3, the US Department of Homeland Security extended the TPS regulations for 18 months. However, only Haitians who have been resident in the USA since July 29th at the latest are entitled to protection in the form of temporary residence permits. In Del Rio, Mayorkas justified the deportations on Monday by saying that the United States believed that Haiti could safely take in people.
The number of migrants at the bridge over the Rio Grande border river had reached nearly 15,000before the deportation flights started on Sunday and around 3,000 people were relocated. There are now almost 5,000 migrants in Del Rio. Not much more have made it that far so far. In the dangerous border region between Colombia and Panama in the Darién jungle, almost 19,000 migrants who want to go further north are currently stuck – mostly Haitians.
In the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, tens of thousands of migrants have been waiting, some for months. Since the presidency of then US President Donald Trump, Mexico has been using soldiers to stop migrants on their way north. That has not changed under Trump’s successor Joe Biden.
The journey that migrants have taken is extremely long and dangerous. You are on the road for months and experience violent deaths, rape, kidnapping and extortion. Most of them fled after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti. Many settled in Brazil or Chile. According to media reports, discrimination there and the consequences of the pandemic have now driven them north.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard recently said Haitians had been deceived – They were told that the TPS regulation meant that the US would accept them. Many of them, however, set out simply because the immigration opponent Trump is no longer in office and his successor, Biden, has made more friendly tones.
There was a huge rush at the US border, especially from Mexicans and Central Americans. With one exception for unaccompanied minors, the Biden government has retained a regulation from Trump’s times, with which the borders are largely closed to migrants, with reference to the pandemic. They are not even given the opportunity to apply for asylum – which is what they are actually entitled to under international law. Most of the migrants have gathered under the bridge to apply for asylum. You can only do that within the USA.
The organization Partners in Health, which has been active in Haiti for a long time, has made serious reproaches to the US government: “In a difficult and dangerous time for Haiti, it is unimaginably cruel to send men, women and children back to a country that many of them no longer even call home.”
The US special envoy Daniel Foote has now apparently drawn a consequence of the treatment of the Haitians: He submitted his resignation, as the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday when asked. Several US media cited from the letter that Foote did not want to be associated with the “inhuman” and “counterproductive” decision of the US government to deport thousands of migrants to Haiti.