Hundreds of rights groups urge US to stop deporting Haitians fleeing gang war

28 March 2024 - 08:30 By Sarah Morland and Harold Isaac
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Nearly 500 immigration and human rights organisations signed a letter urging the US government to halt deportations of Haitians and expand migration protections as a devastating gang conflict escalates on the Caribbean island nation.

The Haitian Bridge Alliance, a San Diego-based non-profit, published a letter on Wednesday together with 481 migration, human rights, religious and civil rights groups, calling for the US administration to extend temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians, halt deportations and forced returns, release detained migrants and expand parole programs for refugees.

Countries including the United States, Canada and France have been evacuating their citizens as well as staff from the Haiti operations of international organizations such as the United Nations, European Union, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Neighboring countries have meanwhile bolstered border security and deported Haitians fleeing the violence back into the country, despite UN criticisms. The US and Canada have also deployed soldiers to secure their embassies.

"If the United States cannot keep its personnel safe in Haiti, then the Haitian government is unlikely to keep Haitian nationals safe," the letter said, arguing migration and forced displacement should not be separated from a lack of "reparatory justice for slavery, colonialism and neo-colonial imperialism."

Haiti's political situation has been at a deadlock for over two weeks with politicians unable to come together to install a transition council president and interim prime minister, while alliances of heavily armed gangs continue fighting over parts of the capital Port-au-Prince that they do not yet control.

The council - progress hampered by factional disagreements and threats - was initially expected to make its decision within 48 hours of Prime Minister Ariel Henry announcing his resignation on March 11. On Wednesday, it issued a statement saying it was finalising a document on its modus operandi.

The United Nations estimates over 360,000 Haitians are internally displaced and thousands have been killed in the conflict, while the ever-shifting battle lines cut off access to healthcare, food and regular income.

While the capital's airport remains closed, Haiti's Sunrise Airways on Monday re-launched flights to Miami from the relatively calmer northern city of Cap-Haitien, after domestic and international flights were canceled due to the violence.

Gang leader Jimmy "Barbeque" Cherizier in a video address Wednesday called for the fighting to continue. "Planes must not fly in the country. We need to keep marching," he said.


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