In a report released Wednesday about the humanitarian crisis that has ravaged Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, Michel Forst, the United Nations Independent Expert on Haiti, calls on the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, France, and other countries to halt deportations to Haiti. The University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic and Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM)/Haitian Women of Miami – groups that have worked on this issue for the past two years – share Forst's concerns and echo his call.
For more than a year, the Human Rights Clinic and FANM, along with their partners – the University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic, Alternative Chance, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law-Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice – have urged officials to halt deportations from the United States to Haiti. The deportations, in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere, violate human rights and adversely affect Haiti.
Forst recommends that governments determined to deport people to Haiti take into account humanitarian concerns, such as family ties in the deporting country or a deportee's health condition. "The U.S. has deported over 500 persons to Haiti in the past year, and interdicted thousands at sea," said Caroline Bettinger-López, Director of the UM School of Law's Human Rights Clinic. "In addition to the life-threatening situation deportees face, they also are forced to leave behind small children and spouses who depend on them."
Forst's report emphasizes that Haiti has a long road to recovery following the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, and is not equipped to deal with an influx of additional people. To make matters worse, cholera has killed over 7,000 Haitians since an outbreak of the disease nine months after the quake, and some 530,000 have fallen ill. The epidemic remains uncontained.
"Once they arrive in Haiti, deportees from the United States are routinely detained in Haitian jails, exposed to life-threatening conditions in the midst of the continuing epidemic, and given insufficient access to food, water, housing and medical treatment," said Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of FANM. "Following the first post-earthquake flight of deportees to Haiti in January 2011, one U.S. deportee, Wildrick Guerrier, died of cholera-like symptoms after being detained. This is unacceptable."
Members of the Human Rights Clinic and FANM visited Haiti in February of this year to document conditions on the ground, and contributed research and documentation for the U.N. Independent Expert's report. "The stories told by deportees paint a picture of fear, helplessness and hopelessness," said Drew Aiken, one of the law students who went to Haiti. "Besides their lack of basic means and necessities such as food and water, many are forced to live in tent camps after they are released from illegal detention in Haitian jails. Deportees also spoke about being ripped apart from their U.S. families, and their fears that they will never see their children and spouses again."
In February 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued precautionary measures – similar to an injunction – against the United States "to suspend deportations to Haiti of persons of Haitian origin who are seriously ill or who have family members in the United States." The Commission has renewed the precautionary measures order as recently as June 5, 2012. The United Nations Independent Expert's report adds another voice from the international community to the outcry against deportations to Haiti. Most deportees from the U.S. are legal permanent residents, and have lived in the United States for decades. Some were not even born in Haiti, but rather in the Bahamas, Cuba or elsewhere, to Haitian parents.
For additional information on the Miami Law Human Rights Clinic and Immigration Clinic's efforts to stop deportations to Haiti, see www.stophaitideportations.org. For more information on FANM, visit their website.