U.N. Urges Countries to Cease Deportations of Haitians

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The United Nations advised all governments on June 21 to extend permits for Haitians and cease deportations back to the Caribbean nation still suffering effects of the January 2010 earthquake.

The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), together with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR), sent a joint request to governments after reports surfaced about countries deporting Haitians in light of growing concerns regarding the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

According to Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program, concern from advocacy organizations began rising in December 2010, when they were alerted of the first Haitian deportation flights scheduled to leave the United States.

“Continuing deportations to Haiti while conditions remain so dangerous is an affront to human rights,” said Dakwar. “With Haiti battling a cholera epidemic and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, it is irresponsible to force anyone to return before conditions have improved enough to allow a safe and humane return.”

While other countries have begun the deportation process of Haitians, the U.S. is a main target in the efforts to stop deportations. According to Dakwar, the U.S., ignoring recommendations and pleas from human rights experts, has already sent four deportation flights, with the latest being sent out just last week.

According to an ACLU release, U.N. Independent Expert Michel Frost, who was appointed by the UNHCR to closely monitor the conditions in Haiti, repeatedly reported serious concerns about deporting people back to Haiti due to “the unsafe environment there.”

Other recommendations to cease deportations came from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). According to a joint statement by non-governmental organizations, including the ACLU, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Association of Haitian Women, the IACHR urged the U.S. to cease Haitian deportations, citing poor conditions of detention centers and lack of access to adequate medical care for those in custody. The IACHR also advised the U.S. to take family ties into account before issuing deportations.

“The government is violating its own stated policy,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “At minimum, the government must ensure that no one is deported to Haiti without the case-by-case assessments they are entitled to.”

The U.S. government has acknowledged the unsafe living conditions in Haiti, and has advised citizens against traveling there due to the cholera outbreak. On May 17, President Obama extended the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows Haitians living in the U.S. with no more than one misdemeanor offense and who meet eligibility requirements to remain for another 18 months.

Even with the President’s extension, many have still been deported back to Haiti, and according to Dakwar, one Haitian deportee suffered severe cholera symptoms and died nine days after returning to Haiti.

“There is no justification to send people back to Haiti. That would amount to a death sentence for some people,” said Dakwar. “The United States should strive to be a leader on human rights.”