Angry scenes at Haiti airport add to Biden pressure on deportations
By Gessika Thomas and Daina Beth Solomon
HARBOR-TO-PRINCE, Haiti /CIUDADNONE, Mexico – Angry scenes erupted Tuesday at Haiti’s main airport among migrants sent home from a sordid Texan border camp, as US President Joe Biden faced mounting pressure to end a policy of deportation which, according to the UN chief, could be illegal.
Nearly 10,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, remain in worse and worse conditions in the makeshift camp that arose under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande from the Texas town of Del Rio to Ciudad Acuna in Mexico.
In recent days, US authorities have removed at least 4,000 people from the site for treatment in detention centers. Hundreds have now been returned to Haiti.
Returnees reacted angrily as they stepped off flights at Port-au-Prince airport after spending thousands of dollars on arduous journeys from the ailing Caribbean nation via South America into the hope for a better life in the United States.
On Tuesday, they ended up where they started.
A group of men in white T-shirts rushed towards the plane they had disembarked from, with at least one man trying to re-board, a Reuters witness said.
Chairs were thrown and the mood heated, heightened by news that the Haitian government had accepted the deportations.
“I am angry with the government, we were told in prison that the Haitian government had signed to send us back to Haiti. These are all bad people, these authorities, ”said Yranese Melidor, 45, who arrived on a previous flight.
The unrest underscored instability in the poor Caribbean country, where a presidential assassination, escalating gang violence and a major earthquake have wreaked havoc in recent weeks.
Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN refugee agency, said US deportations in such a volatile situation could violate international law and constitute refoulement or expose those seeking shelter to life-threatening situations. danger.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also called Biden on Tuesday, saying he “defies common sense” to deport migrants to Haiti and expressing anger at the tactics used by border guards to control the crowd in the camp.
US Vice President Kamala Harris said the situation was complex and that the United States had to “do much more” to meet the basic needs of the Haitian people.
“People want to stay home, they don’t want to leave home, but they leave when they can’t meet their basic needs,” she told reporters.
The camp’s population peaked at 14,000 over the weekend, according to the UN refugee agency. Fearing the evictions, part of the population has now set up a new camp on the Mexican side of the river.
Republican politicians ahead of the 2022 midterm election were quick to describe the sprawling camp as the result of pressure from Democrats to end some migration restrictions.
The conflicting demands underscored the political challenges the Biden administration faces as it attempts to manage a record number of border arrivals this year that Republican Senator Mitt Romney called a “disaster” on Tuesday.
In Texas, three Haitians briefly escaped from a bus heading to Brownsville on Monday, according to Jaime Garza, deputy head of the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office. The bus was one of two carrying Haitian migrants from the border, he said.
The three escaped and fled, but were immediately apprehended, he said.
Mexican authorities also prepared flights and buses to its southern states after it began detaining Haitians in Ciudad Acuna, just across the border from Del Rio. The evacuation transports seem intended to reduce the concentration around the camps.
A Reuters team witnessed a meeting, in which several migrants shouted and protested as Mexican agents boarded them at a national immigration institute (IN M) van. IN M did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new camp on the Mexican side has grown, with migrants helped by groups including the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, as well as the United Nations Migration Agency.
The people of Ciudad Acuna brought food.
Surreane Petit, who hugged her 3-year-old boy by her side, said staying in Mexico was a huge improvement over the American camp. “The Mexican people are helping a lot here.”
“We were hungry over there,” said Petit. “Under the bridge, there was no help, no help.”
She said she had lived the past five years in Chile, where her son was born, but decided to leave after pandemic closures made it difficult to leave her home to find work.
Following a wave of anger over an incident https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-homeland-security-chief-heads-border-removal-migrant-camp-accelerates-2021-09- 20 in which mounted US border officials wearing cowboy hats used horse reins as whips to intimidate migrants, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said US border officials were providing care medical and worked with the Red Cross.
Mayorkas said he was horrified by the images of the mistreatment, echoing growing criticism from the White House who said the images “do not represent who we are as a country.”
Despite the risk of being returned to Haiti, many migrants remained in the Del Rio camp.
Carly Pierre, 40, said he was staying in the American camp because he saw a chance to travel to the United States with his wife and two children, aged 3 and 5, after several years in the Brazil.
“There are deportees, and there are people who are going to get by,” he said, his shorts still wet from having crossed the river to buy ice cream and soda in a convenience store. Mexican side.