UN agencies concerned at US deportation of migrants to Haiti

UN rights, refugee agencies say people being returned to Haiti may have genuine fears of being persecuted in their country

Peter Kenny   | 21.09.2021
UN agencies concerned at US deportation of migrants to Haiti File Photo


Two UN agencies on Tuesday said they are concerned at the US deportation of migrants back to Haiti, saying that people sent home may not have received the protection they need.

"We are disturbed by the images that we have seen and by the fact that we have seen all these migrants and refugees and asylum-seekers in transport to Port-au-Prince (capital of Haiti)," Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, said at a news conference.

Hurtado was asked on the action by US authorities to halt the flow of migrants camped under a bridge over the Rio Grande bordering Texas and Mexico. More than 12,000 people are camped under the bridge, many from Haiti.

"It appears that there has not been any individual assessment on the case. And that, therefore, maybe some of these people have not received the protection that they needed," she said.

Some migrants may have genuine fears of being deported back to their countries, such as Haiti, which is in a state of political turmoil.

Hurtado said that regardless of a person's migration status, everyone has the same rights and has the right to the same protection and did not want to see the deportations repeated.

The US is expelling migrants under a health law that came into being in March 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said it needed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Grounds for protection

Shabia Mantoo, spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said at the same briefing that some of the people camped out under the bridge "may have well-founded grounds to request international protection."

"While some people arriving at the border may not be refugees, anyone who does have a claim or claims to have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their country of origin should have access to asylum and to have their claim assessed before being subjected to expulsion or deportation," said Mantoo.

She said the refugee agency had been calling for the repeal of the health-related deportation laws for some time.

However, Mantoo said that UNHCR welcomes US President Biden's proposal to raise the target for refugee resettlement in his country in the coming fiscal year to 125,000 people.

"This plan reflects the commitment of the US government and the American people to help ensure that the world's most vulnerable refugees have a chance to rebuild their lives in safety," she said.

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