Haiti Protests Mass Deportation of Migrants to a Country in Crisis

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Haitian government protested plans by the Biden administration to expel migrants from the United States en masse, arguing that Haiti is mired in a deep political and humanitarian crisis and does not have the means to receive thousands of homeless deportees.

The head of Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, said the authorities expect that 14,000 Haitians would be expelled from the United States over the coming three weeks. Officials said they were preparing to receive three flights of migrants just on Sunday to the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

“The Haitian state is not really capable to receive these deportees,” said Mr. Bonheur Delva in an interview.

Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in July. A month later the country’s impoverished southern peninsula was devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, forcing the Caribbean nation’s unstable government to confront the fallout of a deadly natural disaster.

Traditionally, most Haitian migrants have fled violence and economic deprivation in the capital Port-au-Prince, where about half the country’s population lives. But a more recent wave of immigrants have fled from the quake-stricken areas.

According to a U.N. report released last week, 800,000 people were affected by the quake and a month later 650,000 are still in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

Many of the Haitians being deported from the U.S. are likely going to return to southern villages and towns destroyed by the earthquake, in which running water and power have yet to be restored.

Mr. Bonheur Delva said “ongoing security issues in the country” made it extremely difficult to resettle thousands of people. He said the country could not adequately provide security or food to the returnees and said the Covid-19 pandemic further complicated the country’s ability to accept so many people at once.

“I am asking for a humanitarian moratorium,” he said. “The situation is very difficult.”

After pausing deportations to Haiti after the earthquake in August that killed more than 2,000 people, the Biden administration changed course last week when a rush of Haitian migrants crossed into Texas from the border state of Coahuila, Mexico.

Thousands of Haitian migrants traversed the Rio Grande and huddled under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, further straining the United States’ already overwhelmed migration system.

News that the Biden administration would begin deportations again has left the country’s new government scrambling to figure out how to best respond.

Typically, Mr. Bonheur said, the country hosts deportees for up to 48 hours in order to process their arrival into the country. It was unclear how officials would be able to do so if the United States follows through on plans to send up to four flights a day.

“Will we have all that logistics?” Mr. Bonheur said. “Will we have enough to feed these people?”

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