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US deports dozens to Haiti despite telling citizens to leave country

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The United States, less than 24 hours after issuing an urgent advisory for its citizens to evacuate Haiti due to surging violence, proceeded to deport dozens of Haitian nationals back to their strife-torn homeland.

This revelation was confirmed by Guerline Jozef, the executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance advocacy group, who has been in direct contact with affected Haitian families.

Various U.S. media outlets, including The Hill and the Miami Herald, echoed this report, stating that the deportation flight carried over 60 individuals. Flight-tracking data revealed that a plane from Alexandria, Louisiana, was scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, shortly before noon local time.

Guerline Jozef, a staunch advocate for immigration rights, decried the resumption of deportations to Haiti as “inhumane.” She emphasized that asylum seekers and migrants were being sent back to the very conditions they had fled, if not worse.

Using a powerful analogy, she likened the crisis in Haiti to a raging fire, stating, “You have a burning house, and you have people, including children, in that burning house. Instead of sending the firefighters to save the people, you’re dropping people into the fire.”

Haiti, one of the world’s most impoverished nations, has been grappling with rampant gang violence, periodic natural disasters, and a protracted political deadlock exacerbated by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.

On the preceding day, the U.S. embassy in Haiti took the unprecedented step of urging American citizens to evacuate the country due to “the current security situation and infrastructure challenges.”

This advisory went beyond previous warnings against travel to Haiti and followed the order in July to evacuate non-emergency government personnel from the country. The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory for Haiti bluntly cautioned against travel due to “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and poor healthcare infrastructure.”

In the 2022 fiscal year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 1,532 Haitian citizens, a stark increase compared to the 353 deportations in 2021, according to government data. The latest deportation flight has left Haitians in the U.S. deeply apprehensive, especially in light of recent State Department warnings about the country’s security conditions.

The State Department conveyed that U.S. government agencies are closely monitoring the situation in Haiti but stated that “removals of Haitian nationals encountered at our Southern Border and repatriation of Haitian nationals encountered at sea continue” at present.

Addressing U.S. immigration policy, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized President Joe Biden’s efforts to mend a “broken” system, highlighting policies aimed at curtailing arrivals across the U.S.-Mexico border. However, Guerline Jozef pointed out that while Biden has advocated for certain reforms, he has retained many policies from his predecessor, Donald Trump, including deportations.

Human rights advocates have persistently cautioned against deporting individuals to Haiti. In April, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called on nations in the Americas to “suspend the forced return of Haitians to their country, taking into account the current situation in Haiti.”

In 2021, Daniel Foote resigned from his position as the U.S. special envoy for Haiti in response to mass deportations under the Biden administration. He later testified before U.S. lawmakers, underscoring that sending people back to Haiti worsened the situation on the ground, emphasizing that “Haiti is too dangerous.”

As the situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate, deportations under chaotic conditions are further destabilizing the nation, according to Guerline Jozef. Haiti’s predicament remains dire, and international attention on this matter persists as a matter of urgent concern.

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