6 March 2009
GENEVA -- The UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, said Friday he is deeply concerned by reports that the United States Department of Homeland Security, and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, is planning to deport tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants.
Mr. Forst said he has sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security urging the United States Government to reconsider this decision in the light of the physical and financial damage inflicted on Haiti when it was struck by successive hurricanes last August.
"While acknowledging that the hurricanes and storms that drowned low-lying parts of Haiti in mud and misery had been 'severe,' you have concluded on the basis of recommendations provided by the US administration that 'Haiti does not currently warrant a Temporary Protected Status (TPS),'" Mr. Forst wrote.
According to a recent evaluation cited by the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Haiti, Hédi Annabi, the hurricanes "comprehensively destroyed what little infrastructure there was." A total of some 800,000 Haitians either lost their homes entirely or were badly affected. In addition, the global financial crisis has exacerbated a food emergency brought about by the widespread destruction of the country's crops during the hurricanes. Bridges and roads were also washed away. In all, the storms are believed to have destroyed around 15 percent of Haiti's GDP.
"Considering the extent of the damage to homes, schools, roads, bridges and businesses in Haiti, it is highly unlikely that sufficient repairs can be carried out in time for this year's hurricane season, and as a result many thousands of Haitians will be left without protection," Mr. Forst said.
When other countries in the region have been struck by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, with similar devastating impact to the destruction inflicted on Haiti, those countries have been granted TPS, the independent expert noted. "It would therefore be normal to continue to provide support and assistance to all undocumented Haitian migrants living in the US, until the situation has improved in their homeland," he said.
Many experts believe that TPS is the least expensive and most immediate form of humanitarian assistance the United States could provide to Haïti, since it would allow the Haitian government to invest all its limited resources in reconstruction, and the redevelopment of its struggling economy.
For use of information media; not an official record