UN urges states not to deport Haitians and to assess their protection needs

Four agencies advocate for regular migration channels and say Haiti's conditions are not conducive to forced returns

UNICEF/Georges Harry Rouzier  -   Haiti faces political, social and humanitarian crisis

The difficult social, economic, political and humanitarian situation coupled with the disasters that have struck Haiti in recent years, some of them the result of climate change and environmental degradation, have led to massive population displacement in Haiti over the past decade.

This eradication of communities has not been limited to Haitian territory, but has generated an exodus from the island to the mainland, where Haitians have sought refuge in different countries over the years. But recent weeks have seen migration from various points to the northern border of Mexico, where they seek to enter the United States and are met with immediate rejection and mass deportations.

Protection mechanisms

In light of these developments, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently urged states not to expel Haitians without having assessed their protection needs, to adopt a comprehensive approach that guarantees the human rights of these people, and to provide protection mechanisms or legal stay agreements to ensure effective access to regular migration channels.

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IFRC - Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and much of its population is dependent on humanitarian aid.

In a joint statement, the agencies explained that the Haitians who are displaced are people with different protection needs. They detailed that this group includes unaccompanied or separated children, victims of trafficking and survivors of gender-based violence, for example.
"Some of these people have well-founded reasons to seek international protection as refugees. Others may have different protection needs," the agencies noted.

They also recalled that international law prohibits collective expulsions and requires a case-by-case assessment to identify protection needs based on refugee and human rights law.

Racism and xenophobia

They condemned discriminatory public discourse suggesting that human mobility is a problem and called for it to be avoided at all costs as it fuels racism and xenophobia.

The agencies explained that at least 19,000 people were displaced in Port-au-Prince in the recent summer alone due to the continued increase in violence and insecurity.

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UNICEF/Georges Harry Rouzier - A family sits in the rubble of their destroyed house after the earthquake in Haiti.

In addition, UN data detail that more than 20 per cent of children have been victims of sexual violence and that nearly 24 per cent of the population lives below the extreme poverty line, with incomes of $1.23 a day.

It is also estimated that 4.4 million people, or 46 per cent of the population, are food insecure, including 1.2 million people at emergency levels and 3.2 million at crisis levels. Some 217,000 children are moderately or severely malnourished.

The picture will get worse

The agencies warned that these numbers will worsen as a result of the 14 August earthquake and said this limits the country's capacity to receive returnees. "Conditions in Haiti remain worrisome and not conducive to forced returns," they said.

The UN system and its partners assist Haitians inside and outside their country, as well as along their migratory route. However, much more urgently needs to be done to address their most pressing needs, the agencies concluded.