The government has repatriated more than 200 migrants to Haiti since October 19, according to an official for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“Yesterday was the second charter organized by the Bahamian authorities with 105 people,” said Giuseppe Loprete, who heads the IOM’s mission in Haiti.
“The first charter carried 112, plus some people have been sent back on commercial flights, so far 11, according to what we know.
“So 228 as of today have been returned, mostly from Dorian-affected areas.
“Some migrants claimed that they were regularly present in The Bahamas but we couldn’t verify. None of them has Haitian documents anyway. They spent from [a] few days up to a month in detention or collective shelters before being repatriated.”
In recent weeks, the government has faced backlash after announcing its intention to enforce immigration laws and deport undocumented migrants, even those impacted by Hurricane Dorian in early September.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the government announced that the repatriation of storm victims, who are undocumented migrants, was on hold.
Several human rights groups have accused the government of “targeting” Haitians with its policies and sending them to a country with civil unrest.
Yesterday, Loprete told The Nassau Guardian that the IOM has “several concerns” about the current state of Haiti, noting that “it’s not conducive to returns and for migrants who [want] to start over their lives”.
“…Upon return, [they] become part of the communities of origin and the population at large,” he said.
“They will experience the same difficulties everyone is having in Haiti. In addition, they are certainly traumatized, they had a job and they had their living in The Bahamas but they lost everything suddenly. There is a risk of stigma for those who failed, starting over will not be easy.
“We understand the Bahamian authorities are handling their crisis and it is already a lot to deal with. We would like to advocate for not making the lives of migrants even more difficult, explore all the options available locally and in case of repatriation, to reinforce the coordination with Haitian authorities to better protect migrants and provide a dignified return.”
Loprete noted that Haiti is experiencing a “lockdown of basic services”, including healthcare, schools, hospital and other critical infrastructure.
He said clinics in the country are “struggling” with fuel and medical supplies as well as food insecurity for 40 percent of the population.
“Many roads and areas are affected by roadblocks, extortion, violence,” the United Nations (UN) official said.
“Migrants have to go through these roads to return to their areas of destination, mostly in the northern departments.
“We have also protection concerns for most vulnerable migrants such as women including pregnant women, children, people showing clear signs of trauma that are now on their own in Haiti.”
Loprete added, “Economic activities are minimal, external trade has decreased and we can anticipate that remittances will decrease as well especially from The Bahamas as migrant workers are affected by Dorian.
“This is the context, we cannot say for sure but it is realistically difficult for these migrants to return in areas affected by the crisis and make their living. They will experience the same problems [as] the rest of the population.”