United Nations News Center
An independent United Nations human rights expert today asked the United States Government to reconsider deporting tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants in light of the physical and financial damage inflicted on the impoverished Caribbean nation by a series of hurricanes last August.
In a news release issued in Geneva, Michel Forst voiced deep concern at reports that the US Department of Homeland Security, and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is planning to deport the immigrants.
According to a recent evaluation cited by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Hédi Annabi, the four back-to-back storms that struck the country from mid-August to mid-September “comprehensively destroyed what little infrastructure there was.”
A total of some 800,000 Haitians either lost their homes entirely or were badly affected by the storms which also left 800 people dead.
In addition, the global financial crisis has worsened a food emergency brought about by the widespread destruction of the country’s crops during the hurricanes, and critical infrastructure, including bridges and roads, have been wiped out. The storms are believed to have destroyed around 15 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“Considering the extent of the damage to homes, schools, roads, bridges and businesses in Haiti, it is highly unlikely that sufficient repairs can be carried out in time for this year’s hurricane season, and as a result many thousands of Haitians will be left without protection,” Mr. Forst said.
Mr. Forst has written to the Secretary of Homeland Security, urging the Government to reconsider its decision. “While acknowledging that the hurricanes and storms that drowned low-lying parts of Haiti in mud and misery had been ‘severe,’ you have concluded on the basis of recommendations provided by the US administration that ‘Haiti does not currently warrant a Temporary Protected Status (TPS),’” he noted.
When other countries in the region have been struck by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, with similar devastating impact to the destruction inflicted on Haiti, those countries have been granted TPS, Mr. Forst added.
“It would therefore be normal to continue to provide support and assistance to all undocumented Haitian migrants living in the US, until the situation has improved in their homeland,” he said.
According to many experts, TPS is the least expensive and most immediate form of humanitarian assistance the US could provide to Haiti, since it would allow the Haitian Government to invest all its limited resources in reconstruction, and the redevelopment of its struggling economy.
Today’s development comes ahead of a visit to the country on Monday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former US President Bill Clinton, aimed at raising awareness of efforts to help Haiti’s Government and people bolster their economic security.
Following that, a delegation from the UN Security Council will begin a visit to the country on 11 March. Ambassador Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica, who is leading the mission, briefed reporters today in New York on the main purpose and programme of the visit.
“The members of the Council intend to convey a strong message of continued support to the Government and people of Haiti in rebuilding their country after the natural disasters that took place last year, consolidating peace and stability and promoting recovery and sustainable development,” he stated.
The Council is expected to meet with President René Préval, Prime Minister Michèle Pierre Louis and several government ministers, as well as representatives of the National Assembly and the Senate, party leaders and parliamentarians.
The delegation will also meet also with the electoral authorities to review the preparations for the upcoming polls, and members of the UN Country Team and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH.
“By carrying out such an extension programme, the Council wants to underline the importance of the mutual commitments made by the international community and Haiti,” Mr. Urbina said.