PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – With the increase in the number of Haitian immigrants that have been arrested at the United States border this month, the U.S. is warning Haitian nationals against undertaking the dangerous travel by sea in unworthy boats in their attempt to reach the North American country.
In a related development, Barbados has rescinded its no-visa deal with Haiti because of the large number of Haitians fleeing the island nation.
In a statement, the US Embassy here said that Washington remains concerned about repeated maritime migrant ventures from Haiti, “several of which have resulted in the deaths of Haitian citizens…
“There are many different reasons that migrants attempt such unsafe voyages at sea, but none of them are worth the risk of life,” the Embassy said, adding that the dangers of migrant ventures at sea are multi-faceted.
“The boats intercepted by the US Coast Guard and its partners are often severely overloaded, of poor quality, and lack safety equipment. These boats are often operated by smugglers, who have demonstrated little to no regard for the lives of Haitians in their pursuit for profit.
“Smugglers have been known to throw passengers overboard, or abandon their vessels. In some cases, smugglers are actually human traffickers who exploit migrants through some form of servitude, sexual exploitation, or other criminal activities.”
Washington said that numerous US agencies and their international partners are working around the clock “to deter and stop these unsafe voyages before they end in tragedy.
“Too often these unsafe voyages result in loss of life, and they almost always result in a considerable waste of effort, precious resources, and time for the migrants themselves.
“As a long-time partner and friend of Haiti, the United States shares Haiti’s desire for a better future for its people. As we work towards a more safe, secure, and prosperous Haiti, we urge anyone against undertaking these voyages,” the Embassy said.
Over the period of one month, in June 2019, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers assigned to the Del Rio Sector in Texas said that they arrested over 1,000 Haitian nationals. Prior to June 10, Del Rio Sector had arrested only 17 Haitians this fiscal year, CBP said.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados Government says it did not have a choice in reversing the no-visa requirements for Haitians.
The island’s ambassador to Caricom, David Comissiong, said Bridgetown was forced to reverse its decision to allow free movement of Haitian nationals into the country without a visa because of the “large influx of persons” of Haitian nationality coming from Panama and Chile who were not entitled to work here.
He said that this was compounded because “no one in Haiti had really explained to them the principles of this free movement programme, and the vast majority of them were coming with this mistaken idea that they could simply come to Barbados to work and live, with many of them becoming stranded in Barbados.
“We derived no pleasure from having to move away from the full visa free regime, but we felt that we didn’t have a choice, and we communicated that to the Haitian Government, and they understand that Barbados’ heart is with them, but we were compelled to make the change,” Comissiong said as he discussed last week’s Caricom summit in St Lucia.
“You will recall that when Barbados removed the visa requirements, almost simultaneously, through the Barbados Tourism Authority, COPA airlines started two flights a week out of Panama, and the two things just happened to coincide.
“Those flights out of Panama then became available to Haitians — Haitians coming from Haiti itself, and also Haitians coming from Chile, where there is a large Haitian Diaspora and those two weekly flights into Barbados came to be dominated by Haitian travellers,” Comissiong said.
The diplomat said that the situation was becoming untenable, and a decision was made after extensive consultations with several stakeholders, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Immigration Department, the ministries of Tourism, and Home Affairs, airlines and the Grantley Adams International Airport.
“We looked at every possible way in which we could solve the problem because what had started to happen is that you started to get a negative backlash from the Barbadian people because of Haitians being stranded here, and that was the last thing we wanted.
“We did not want an initiative which was supposed to be a positive and constructive regional integration initiative descending into instability and chaos, and then generating a negative response from the Barbadian people,” he added.
Comissiong said that although Haitians were not coming “with any devious intention”, they could only work and live in Barbados if they qualified under the Caricom Skilled Nationals programme or the Right of Establishment programme.
He admitted that Barbados had a legal responsibility to admit Haitians on the same basis as any other Caricom citizen, noting that Barbados’ Immigration Department would “accommodate any Haitian who legitimately wishes to come to Barbados”.
“I can tell you any Haitian who legitimately needs to come to Barbados will have no problem with getting a visa, or even getting permission to come into Barbados and to be granted a visa at the airport, so we will seek to accommodate our Haitian brothers and sisters as much as possible,” Comissiong said.
Most, if not all, Caricom countries have imposed visa restrictions on haitians, even though the French-speaking country is a part of the 15-member grouping.