UN agencies call for protection measures and a comprehensive regional approach for Haitians on the move
Joint statement by UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF, OHCHR
GENEVA, 30 September 2021 - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) call on states to refrain from expelling Haitians without proper assessment of their individual protection needs, 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.
The four agencies also encourage countries in the Americas to engage in a comprehensive regional approach to ensure the protection of Haitian men, women and children moving throughout the region.
The UN and its partners are providing basic assistance to Haitians at various points en route and in Haiti. However, more needs to be done to address their profound vulnerabilities.
The complex social, economic, humanitarian and political situation, and the various catastrophes affecting Haiti, some of which are linked to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, have led to different population movements from the Caribbean country in the past decade.
Haitians on the move in the Americas comprise people with different protection needs, profiles and motivations, including unaccompanied and separated children, victims of trafficking, and survivors of gender-based violence. Some may have well-founded grounds to request international refugee protection. Others may have other protection needs.
International law prohibits collective expulsions and requires that each case be examined individually to identify protection needs under international human rights and refugee law.
Discriminatory public discourse portraying human mobility as a problem risks contributing to racism and xenophobia and should be avoided and condemned.
Haiti continues to face an escalation in violence and insecurity, with at least 19,000 people internally displaced in the capital Port-au-Prince in the summer of 2021 alone. Well over 20 per cent of girls and boys have been victims of sexual violence. In addition, nearly 24 per cent of the population, including 12.9 per cent who are children, live below the extreme poverty line of US$ 1.23 per day. Some 4.4 million people, or nearly 46 per cent of the population, face acute food insecurity, including 1.2 million people who are in emergency levels and 3.2 million people at crisis levels. An estimated 217,000 children suffer from moderate-to-severe acute malnutrition.
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.