UN agencies call for nations to 'refrain' from deporting Haitian migrants without 'proper assessment'

UN agencies call for nations to 'refrain' from deporting Haitian migrants without 'proper assessment'
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Four United Nations agencies on Thursday called for countries to "refrain" from reporting Haitian migrants without "proper assessment of their individual protection needs."

The UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the UN Human Rights Office called for states to "uphold the fundamental human rights of Haitians on the move, and to offer protection mechanisms or other legal stay arrangements for more effective access to regular migration pathways."

In the statement, the agencies cited the "various catastrophes affecting Haiti" as factors that countries should consider before immediately expelling Haitians. In the past few months, Haiti has experienced a presidential assassination and 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

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"International law prohibits collective expulsions and requires that each case be examined individually to identify protection needs under international human rights and refugee law," the agencies said. "Discriminatory public discourse portraying human mobility as a problem risks contributing to racism and xenophobia and should be avoided and condemned."

"This situation is bound to worsen as a result of the 14 August earthquake straining any capacity to receive returning Haitians. Conditions in Haiti continue to be dire, and not conducive to forced returns," the U.N. agencies added.

In the past few weeks, thousands of Haitians have either been expelled under a U.S. public health law known as Title 42 or voluntarily returned to Mexico from where they crossed into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that some 15,000 migrants were cleared out from a bridge in Del Rio, Texas where mostly migrants had been sheltering.

On Monday, the Panamanian government reported that around 4,000 Haitian migrants had passed through the country en route to the U.S. 

The deportation of Haitian migrants sparked criticisms of the Biden administration, with observers noting that many of the Haitian migrants being sent to Port-au-Prince had not been back to the country in several years. Outrage was sparked when footage of border patrol agents on horseback appearing to whip migrants was share online, though it was later reported that the "whips" were the reins for the horses.

U.S. special envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in protest last week, citing the “inhumane treatment of migrants."

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,” Foote wrote.