“Haitians Continue to drown at sea, fleeing, against all odds, the land their forebears fought for so heroically and valiantly on a quest for a better life.”
Hardly a new phenomenon, Haitian migration took center stage as the United Nations in mid-July after a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants, the second one in a month, went aground near the Bahamas. In a similar incident taken place in U.S. And in Bahamian waters on June 12, 2012, more than 12 Haitians drowned while attempting to reach Florida shores, according to Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In her characterization, “Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to leave their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels,” said Fleming, who estimated hundreds of Haitians perished at sea annually, though she admitted empirical data to substantiate her claim lacked. “These events,” added Fleming, “are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to.”
The Spokesperson also attributed the continuous stream of Haitian migration to other environmental stressors, such as the nearly half million tent inhabitants still scattered throughout the country, Haiti’s tense political climate, and increased levels of criminality and insecurity. Far from being a Haitian idiosyncrasy however, mass migration plagued the region.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), US Coast Guard rescued or intercepted more than 900 people since December, including 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic. Due to Haiti’s Humanitarian crisis, UNHCR and OHCHR implored countries to not return Haitian to their homeland without adequate individual protection screening. However, those pleas fell on death ears.
Facing those odds, Haitians continue to drown at sea, fleeing the land their forebears fought for so heroically and valiantly in a quest for a better life. Yet Build Haiti Back Better is in full swing, promising a new, modern Haiti will soon rise from the debris.
For Fleming, the situation necessitates a collective international approach aimed a prevention rather than interception and rescue. “UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of adequate protection safeguards for individuals apprehended at sea, and hopes that such tragedies can be avoided in the future through enhanced international cooperation in the region,” she said.