PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Vulnerable Haitian men, women and children on the move in the Americas should not be expelled from countries where they have found shelter, UN agencies said on Thursday.
In a joint appeal by UN migration agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Children's Fund UNICEF, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), they highlighted that many Haitians in the past decade have faced a series of natural catastrophes, acute food insecurity and gang violence.
The situation inside Haiti “is bound to worsen” because of last month's earthquake, making the island unfit for them to return, they added.
Their warning comes amid the reported expulsion of thousands of Haitians from a makeshift camp on the US border with Mexico.
Those who have left the Caribbean island include unaccompanied and separated children, victims of trafficking and survivors of gender-based violence.
Some may need international refugee protection while others may have different protection needs, the UN agencies said, before insisting that international law “prohibits collective expulsions and requires that each case be examined individually”.
They also pointed out that discriminatory public discourse disparaging migrants, risks contributing to racism and xenophobia.
Haiti continues to face an escalation in violence and insecurity, with at least 19,000 people internally displaced in the capital Port-au-Prince in the summer of 2021 alone, they said.
Well over 20 per cent of girls and boys have been victims of sexual violence. In addition, nearly 24 per cent of the population, including 12.9 per cent who are children, live below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.
Some 4.4 million people, or nearly 46 per cent of the population, face acute food insecurity, including 1.2 million people who are at emergency levels and 3.2 million more having to cope at an official crisis level.
An estimated 217,000 children suffer from moderate-to-severe acute malnutrition. The agencies warned that this situation is bound to worsen as a result of the August 14 earthquake and its aftermath.
The capacity to receive returning Haitians has been strained and conditions in Haiti continue to be dire, and not conducive to forced returns, they stressed.