Tag Archives: US Coast Guard

UNHCR: More people are risking lives in the Caribbean to reach safety

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.

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Filed under Caribbean - West Indies, Data / Stats, Haiti, News, UNHCR

Office of Legal Counsel (US Dept of Justice) 1994 Legal Opinion, “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an Arrest Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act”

This post will be of little interest to most people, but I wanted to give an online home to this US Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) legal opinion issued on April 22, 1994 [22 April 1994 OLC Opinion] and which we obtained last month pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to OLC in September 2009.

The legal opinion, “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an ‘Arrest’ Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” concludes that “[t]he interdiction within the territorial waters of the United States of illegal aliens entering or attempting to enter the United States is not an ‘arrest’ of such aliens within the meaning of INA § 287(a)(2).”

By concluding that an interdiction within US territorial waters does not constitute an arrest under US immigration laws, the 1994 legal opinion re-affirmed a 1993 OLC legal opinion that aliens interdicted within the 12 mile territorial sea zone are not entitled to hearings before an immigration judge which in turn means that such aliens are not able to seek protections under US immigration law, including protection against refoulement. The 1993 memo stated, inter alia, that “the State Department has advised us of its view that the United States’s international law obligations under the Protocol do not require it to provide … hearings to aliens who have merely arrived in its territorial waters.”

This rationale was extended by a 1996 OLC legal opinion to interdictions that occur within the “internal waters” of the US.  “Internal waters” under US law include such bodies of water as “the straits between the Florida Keys [and] portions of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Since 1992, the US has maintained the position that its obligation to apply Article 33 non-refoulement protection does not extend to persons encountered outside US territory in international waters.  While asserting it is not obligated to extend Article 33 protection to persons encountered in international waters, within the 12 mile territorial sea, or within internal waters, the US does extend Article 33 protection to interdicted migrants on a discretionary case-by-case basis.

Click on this link, 1994 OLC Opinion, for newly released 1994 OLC legal opinion: “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an ‘Arrest’ Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (22 April 1994).

Click here for 1993 OLC legal opinion: “Immigration Consequences of Undocumented Aliens’ Arrival in United States Territorial Waters,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (13 October 1993).

Click here for 1996 OLC legal opinion: “Rights of Aliens Found in US Internal Waters,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (21 November 1996).

Click here for Executive Order No 12807 (29 May 1992) containing, inter alia, US interpretation of its Article 33 obligations in regard to persons encountered in international waters.

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Joint US–Senegal Maritime Patrols

U.S Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman/Released

The United States Coast Guard recently completed a joint mission in cooperation with a Senegalese Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).   Such patrols have been conducted with several other African countries.   The US Coast Guard operations were conducted under the umbrella of the U.S. Military’s Africa Command and are a part of the ongoing African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP).   While it is unclear whether this particular joint mission resulted in the interception of migrants, the US military article refers to numerous vessels stopped and searched for a variety of reasons, including narcotics interdiction.  The US vessel involved in this recent joint operation, USCGC Mohawk, frequently patrols the Haitian and Bahamian coasts as part of the US “Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations.”

Click here for US Military article.

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Filed under Eastern Atlantic, News, Senegal, United States

US to Haitians: Don’t Rush to the Boats

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.

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Filed under Caribbean - West Indies, Haiti, News, Reports, United States

1300+ Haitian Migrants Interdicted to Date in 2009 (News, Data)

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.

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85 Haitians Dead Off of Turks and Caicos (News)

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.

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Filed under Caribbean - West Indies, Haiti, News, Turks and Caicos