Full text of 13 July 2012 statement: UNHCR is very concerned by the loss of life we are seeing in maritime incidents in the Caribbean among people trying to escape difficult conditions in Haiti.
On Tuesday July 10, a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants ran aground near the Bahamas. In an earlier tragedy, on June 12, more than a dozen Haitians lost their lives in Bahamian and US waters while trying to reach the shores of Florida. These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to.
Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to flee their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels. Although no firm statistics exist, it is estimated that hundreds of deaths occur yearly as a result.
US Coast Guard data shows that since December 2011 over 900 people have been found on boats in rescue or interception operations including some 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic. [See US Coast Guard statistics here.]
Inside Haiti, internal displacement remains significant with 421,000 individuals still living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country. The political situation remains tense, and a rise is reported in criminality and insecurity. A cholera outbreak has continued.
UNHCR is also concerned about countries that are returning the Haitians to Haiti, ignoring an earlier joint-appeal by UNHCR and OHCHR asking states not to return Haitians, for humanitarian reasons, without adequate individual protection screening. The joint call was made in view of the daunting humanitarian challenges that Haiti still faces, exacerbated by the January 2010 earthquake.
UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of adequate protection safeguards for individuals apprehended at sea, and hopes that such tragedies can be avoided in the future through enhanced international cooperation in the region.
Click here for statement.
Click here for link to US Coast Guard “Alien Migrant Interdiction” statistics page.
Filed under Caribbean - West Indies, Data / Stats, Haiti, News, UNHCR
Tagged as Bahamas, Deaths at sea, Haiti, Maritime Interdiction, Migrants, Refugees, UNHCR, United States, US Coast Guard
The Los Angeles Times reports on the construction of a boat in Cap Haitien, Haiti and preparations being made by some earthquake survivors to flee the country for the US.
“When builders finish the boat in a few days, it will set sail with … at least 40 others for the United States. If they survive the 600-mile crossing, and aren’t intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard, they’ll soon be walking the streets of opportunity. … The boat is being built on a narrow, secluded waterway that feeds into the bay, out of sight of Haitian coast guard patrols and U.S. ships that [the ship’s builder] said he’s spotted on the shimmering blue sea just outside the bay.”
Click here for article and here for photos and audio.
Click here for Christian Science Monitor article regarding recent US preparations for possible surge of Haitian boat people.
While there have been few, if any, Haitians attempting to leave Haiti since the 12 January earthquake, and while the US has deployed a significant naval force in Haitian waters for the purpose of providing humanitarian relief, the deployment of the US Coast Guard vessels serves the dual purpose of discouraging boat people.
The US Air Force is flying a C-130 plane along the Haitian coastline broadcasting AM radio messages to Haitians on the ground – among the pre-recorded Kreyol language broadcast is a message from the Haitian Ambassador to the US, Raymond Joseph:
“Listen, don’t rush on boats to leave the country. If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems. Because I’ll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
The US is also erecting tents and other facilities at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba in preparation for the mass detention of thousands of Haitians should there be a sudden surge in departures from Haiti.
The research office of the US Congress has issued an updated report on Haitian migration warning of possible mass migration:
“There are growing concerns that the crisis conditions in Haiti may result in mass migration from the country. Not only has there been massive displacement of people caused by the earthquake, but observers of the situation warn of potential and widespread lawlessness as well as outbreaks of disease. These health, safety, and security factors—individually or in combination—could trigger an exodus of Haitians seeking refuge in nearby countries, including the United States. At least five federal agencies now handle Haitian migrants: DHS’s Coast Guard (interdiction); Customs and Border Protection (apprehensions and inspections); Immigration and Customs Enforcement (detention); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (credible fear determination); and DOJ’s EOIR (asylum and removal hearings). DHS would take the lead in handling a potential mass migration and has long had a set of operational plans in place to respond to such a situation. In her TPS announcement, Secretary Napolitano warned of the consequences of Haitians fleeing to the United States.
At this moment of tragedy in Haiti it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere. But attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation…. It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated.
The balancing of DHS’s border security and immigration control responsibilities in the midst of a humanitarian disaster poses a unique challenge.”
Click here and here for articles.
Click here for US Congressional Research Service Report.
164 Haitian migrants were interdicted and returned to Haiti by the US Coast Guard earlier this week. 1,374 Haitians have been stopped and returned to Haiti by US authorities to date in 2009.
“The summer has been largely silent in terms of repatriation but dozens were caught and sent packing in the first quarter of the year. January was especially a busy month, with 621 Haitians sent back in the first month of 2009.”
Click here for article.
The US Coast Guard discontinued its 2 plus day search for survivors. 15 dead have been confirmed and about 70 others are believed to be missing and dead. Survivors from the boat said they paid $500 apiece for the trip to the Turks and Caicos from northern Haiti.
Click here and here for articles.
Click here and here and here (USCG video) for US Coast Guard Press Releases.