Thursday, December 2

Mass deportations, violence, racism and imprisonment: civil organizations denounce the situation of Haitian migrants in America

There is no place in America that is safe territory for Haitians. Tens of thousands of people from the Caribbean country are at constant risk in their transit through the continent. On their journey, they face violence from armed groups who assault them to loot them; beatings and hold-ups by the security forces; the fear of being deported back to Haiti, a broken country, without effective government, dominated by gangs and hunger; sexual violence against women and girls; to the dangerous animals that lurk in the jungle through which they are forced to cross from Colombia to Panama, one of the most dangerous points on the route; to the systemic racism they suffer or to being confined in camps that are in practice concentration camps, in conditions of extreme poverty, without health care, work, food or, in many cases, a roof.

A report from International Amnesty (AI) y Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) published this Thursday accredits that “several States in the region [América] they are not providing security to the Haitian people in the face of a series of human rights violations ”. In the investigation, both organizations especially criticize the authorities of Mexico, the United States and Chile for their migration management. Haitians are not protected in any of these countries. In addition to the dangers on the road and the legal obstacles encountered to regularize their situation, we must add the racism with which, according to the report, they are often received in host nations. Between Sept. 19 and Oct. 19 alone, around 10,800 people were deported back to Haiti, according to the International Organization for Migration. 16.5% were minors.

Most of the returns had taken place from the United States, sometimes “by excessive force,” they denounce, referring to the events in Del Río, Texas, where at the end of September more than 15,000 Haitians were concentrated in a precarious camp under the a bridge on the border with Mexico. The images of those days went around the world due to their special brutality: they showed agents on horseback of the United States Border Patrol capturing migrants with ties, in a scene more typical of a Western than an asylum process.

A border patrol agent on horseback grabs a Haitian migrant trying to cross into the camp under the Del Rio International Bridge on September 19.
A border patrol agent on horseback grabs a Haitian migrant trying to cross into the camp under the Del Rio International Bridge on September 19.PAUL RATJE (AFP)

Although the White House decided to reduce deportation flights to the Caribbean country due to the serious humanitarian crisis it is going through, the majority of Haitians from the Del Río camp were expelled to their country or to Mexico, where more than 26,000 people from Haiti have processed an asylum application so far this year, but less than half have been granted. For other nationalities, the percentage of favorable resolutions is much higher, such as the Venezuelan (98% of favorable requests) or the Honduran (85%), according to official data. However, since mid-October, the majority of asylum seekers in the country have come from Haiti, above Honduras, which had led the list so far.

“Current practices in Mexico, especially that of containing migrants and asylum seekers in Tapachula, make the process of requesting international protection strenuous, especially for the tens of thousands of Haitians, many of whom held low-paying jobs. before arriving in Mexico and they have little or no savings, so they are often unable to meet their food and lodging needs, ”the report continues.

Tapachula, “a prison without a roof”

The research was carried out precisely in Tapachula, a Chiapas city on the border with Guatemala, with 350,000 inhabitants and a poverty rate of 78%. There, right now, some 50,000 migrants are being held by the Mexican government, waiting to be able to process their papers, according to estimates from organizations that work on the ground. A true tinderbox with the ideal breeding ground to promote racist attacks, and “conditions of insecurity and destitution due to lack of access to shelter, food and other basic needs.”

In practice, Tapachula is “essentially a prison without a roof,” as the report states. In recent months, several migrant caravans have tried to break the siege, but they have been harshly repressed by the National Guard. Still, more than 500 Haitians made it to Mexico City at the end of September. This Saturday, a new group with hundreds of people has tried again and are on their way to the capital again.

A new caravan of migrants from Central America and Haiti leaving Tapachula (Chiapas) walks north last Monday.
A new caravan of migrants from Central America and Haiti leaving Tapachula (Chiapas) walks north last Monday.Marco Ugarte (AP)

The concentration of so many asylum seekers in one place has caused an overflow in the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees, which has also been denouncing the lack of budget for months. This collapse is also supported by the lack of other legal reception mechanisms in Mexico, beyond asylum protection. But the situation, AI and HBA denounce, is even more serious: “The Mexican immigration authorities are carrying out massive deportations to Haiti and carrying out massive deportations of Haitians to Guatemala.” Something that goes against the measures for the protection of migrants established in international law: “Amnesty International considers that the arrests by the National Immigration Institute and the returns to Chiapas could meet the definition of arbitrary detention.”

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is currently suffering a serious humanitarian crisis, the product of a decade of political and economic instability that followed the 2010 earthquake. Last July, its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated. clarified the reasons or the culprits. In August, the island shook with a new 7.2 magnitude earthquake that left more than 2,000 dead. These days, gangs distribute control of the capital, Port-au-Prince, kidnappings are the order of the day, and only 0.5% of the population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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