A. SITUATION ANALYSIS
Description of the disaster
Following Haiti's 14 August 2021 earthquake, the United States suspended deportations of Haitians in irregular situations. However, the gathering and entering the United States of several thousand people, mainly Haitians, from Mexico changed the situation. Once in U.S. territory, approximately 15,000 people remained in an improvised camp under the Del Rio International Bridge in the town of the same name in the U.S. state of Texas. Based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) figures, between 19 and 29 September, approximately 4,600 Haitian migrants were deported on forty-three flights to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien, 5,000 people were transferred to detention centers, others were provided transportation to large cities in the state of Texas with the initiation of immigration procedures for over 19,000 people. Some Haitian migrants also returned to Mexican territory. From 19 September 2021 until December 26, 2021, 11,816 migrants were repatriated from the United States (6,916 men, representing most returnees with 56%, 3,182 women or 26%, and 2,266 children representing 18% (boys 9%, Girls 9%)). These repatriations are expected to continue into 2022.
Once back in Haiti, these migrants expressed that their three most urgent needs are employment, transportation, home, and food. Many of those deported to Haiti are from North, Northeast, Northwest, and Artibonite departments. Adult males also represented most of those who returned from the United States, particularly those arriving in Cap-Haïtien (74 per cent). Adult males accounted for 61 per cent of the total returnees, while females accounted for 23 per cent and children for 16 per cent.
Most of those who returned from the United States and were assisted by institutions there, including the Haitian Red Cross, lived in Latin American countries for several years before beginning their journey to the United States. More than a quarter of the children who returned were born outside of Haiti and acquired foreign nationality, primarily Chilean and Brazilian. Of the 1,789 returned children, 15 unaccompanied migrant children travelled by sea to the United States or the Caribbean islands when they were identified and returned to Haiti. Family reunification was made possible through the Haitian Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR). Some returnees - particularly those travelling by sea - had begun their journey motivated by various factors, such as lack of income or employment opportunities, insufficient access to services, the earthquake, insecurity, and political instability.
The precarious conditions faced by Haitian migrants in transit through the region, particularly in the Darien region, have made them vulnerable to protection risks, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, and other forms of abuse or violence exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border, some of these Haitians lived for several years in Chile and Brazil until the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the current wave of migration.
In the context of the pandemic, there were concerns regarding the further spread of COVID-19 in Haiti and the impact on the country’s weak health system. For example, the Haitian National Office of Migration (ONM) reported that on the 22 September flight to Cap-Haïtien that repatriated eighty-three men, three tested positive for COVID19 following rapid screening tests conducted by health professionals upon arrival. As of 29 September 2021, Haiti reported 21,647 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 610 deaths. Haiti had the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the Americas, with 64,799 vaccine doses administered in a population of 11.4 million inhabitants. There were 19,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, in Colombia waiting to enter Panama and who will attempt to enter the U.S.Other media outlets even estimated the number of people at the border to be between 20,000 and 30,000 with a possibility of increasing.