Haiti: Whether Haitians who have lived abroad for a long time are at risk if they return to their homeland; the kinds of risks they might face; whether their return could represent a threat to members of their families and, if so, what kind of threat their families would face and from whom (2010-2012)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||29 May 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||HTI104084.E|
|Related Document||Haïti : information indiquant si les Haïtiens qui ont vécu à l'étranger durant une longue période courent des risques s'ils rentrent au pays; information sur les types de risques qu'ils pourraient craindre; information indiquant si leur retour peut représenter une menace pour leur famille et, le cas échéant, information sur le type de menaces et leurs auteurs (2010-2012)|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Haiti: Whether Haitians who have lived abroad for a long time are at risk if they return to their homeland; the kinds of risks they might face; whether their return could represent a threat to members of their families and, if so, what kind of threat their families would face and from whom (2010-2012), 29 May 2012, HTI104084.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4feacd262.html [accessed 24 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
According to the Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a Boston-based organization promoting human rights in Haiti (n.d.), middle-class and affluent Haitians, which may include members of the Haitian diaspora, have a higher individual risk of victimization by criminals in Haiti than do their lower-income counterparts (27 Apr. 2012). He explained, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, that Haitians who have lived abroad are perceived to have access to more resources and may therefore be more likely to be targeted by criminals for crimes such as kidnapping for ransom (IJDH 27 Apr. 2012). The Director noted, however, that the majority of victims of crime are poor, since wealthy citizens can afford private security services to offset their higher individual risk (ibid.). This assessment is partially corroborated by a study published by the Igarapé Institute, "a progressive social cooperation agency committed to effective and accountable community security, safety and development" (n.d.), on urban crime in Haiti in 2011-2012, which found that residents of "popular zones" [low-income neighbourhoods with high population density (note 10)] were more likely to be victims of crime than residents of wealthier and less densely populated areas (Igarapé Institute Mar. 2012, 1). For example, the study found that residents of popular zones were 20 times more likely to experience property crime, 18 times more likely to be physically assaulted, and 27 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than residents in other areas (ibid.).
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the President of the organization Haitian Diaspora Working in Haiti (HDWIH), a non-partisan business association supporting the work of the Haitian diaspora in Haiti (n.d.), said that the risk faced by Haitian returnees depends on the neighbourhoods that they visit or reside in, and whether the neighbourhood is prone to violence or not (15 May 2012). The President noted that the risk of criminal victimization is not limited to members of the diaspora, but is shared by everyone who appears to be wealthy and who attracts attention to themselves (HDWIH 15 May 2012). This statement was corroborated by the Executive Director of Alternative Chance, a "self-help, advocacy program for criminal deportees in Haiti" founded in 1996 (n.d.), in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate (17 May 2012). The HDWIH president noted that crimes motivated by money, including kidnapping, are crimes of opportunity, and that people are more at risk if they do not exercise caution with respect to their personal safety - for example, if they arrive at the airport with a large amount of luggage, or if they linger in the street beside their car (15 May 2012). However, she emphasized that crime in Haiti does not follow consistent patterns and the levels of criminality fluctuate unpredictably (HDWIH 15 May 2012).
The President of the HDWIH also said that it is difficult to assess the level of danger facing returnees who had left Haiti because they were targets of crime (ibid.). She explained that it would largely depend on the specific circumstances, such as whether the criminals that pursued them were still active, or whether the political situation had changed (ibid.).
1.2 Victimization of Family Members of Returnees
Information on risks faced by family members of returnees was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the Director of the IJDH, Haitians who have not lived abroad, but who have connections to people living abroad may face a higher risk of being targeted by criminals, because of an expectation that they would have access to the resources of their friends and family abroad (27 Apr. 2012). In contrast, the President of the HDWIH stated that Haitians who have family abroad would not necessarily be at risk of victimization (15 May 2012).
The Executive Director of Alternative Chance noted that "Haiti is a small country" and that locals are aware of foreigners or outsiders in their communities (17 May 2012). She also said that returnees can be linked to members of their family in Haiti through a shared family name, giving the example of a US deportee who was beaten by local criminals in Haiti because of his family members' past political activities, with which he had never been involved (Alternative Chance 17 May 2012).
2. Detention of Deportees
Sources indicate that the United States deports Haitian citizens with criminal records (ibid.; Center for Constitutional Rights et al. 23 Feb. 2011). Deportees are reportedly detained upon arrival if they are considered to be "serious" criminals by the Haitian authorities (Alternative Chance 17 May 2012; FCIR 13 Nov. 2011). The Executive Director of Alternative Chance explained that crimes deemed to be "serious" may include drug-related offences and assault (17 May 2012). According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR), an "investigative journalism organization working to expose corruption, waste and miscarriages of justice" (n.d.), approximately half of all deportees are detained upon arrival and the decision to hold them is "largely arbitrary" (13 Nov. 2011). The FCIR writes, further, that "no written policy exists, and there is little consensus among members of the [Commission in Charge of Deportees] about the primary purpose of the detentions" (13 Nov. 2011). The Executive Director of Alternative Chance stated that the duration of detention varies from two days to two weeks, and at the time of the interview, detention times were on the shorter end (17 May 2012). The FCIR notes that deportees have been detained for up to 11 days (13 Nov. 2011).
Detention centres where deportees are held are reported to be "deplorably substandard" (Center for Constitutional Rights n.d.), "horrific," (University of Miami et al. 23 Feb. 2011), and "life-threatening" (FCIR 13 Nov. 2011). Several sources note that unsanitary conditions in detention centres expose detainees to the risk of contracting cholera and other illnesses, and that one deportee died in 2011 after exhibiting cholera-like symptoms (ibid.; Center for Constitutional Rights n.d.; Center for Constitutional Rights et al. Mar. 2012). Detainees are also reportedly not provided with food, water, or medical care, and depend on family members, if they have any, to bring them such necessities (ibid. 23 Feb. 2011, Alternative Chance 17 May 2012).
3. Treatment of Deportees
Sources indicate that deportees from the US face "social stigma" upon their return to Haiti (Alternative Chance 17 May 2012; Center for Constitutional Rights et al. Mar. 2012; defend.ht 30 Apr. 2012). According to the Executive Director of Alternative Chance, the Haitian authorities have, in the past, run campaigns blaming criminal deportees from the US for insecurity in Haiti and portraying them as professionally trained killers (17 May 2012). The Executive Director added that the general public fears US deportees and people have been known to target them for lynchings and beatings (Alternative Chance 17 May 2012). Furthermore, sources report that US deportees who are released from detention are not issued Haitian ID and are therefore not permitted to work (ibid.; University of Miami et al. Mar. 2012). Deportees may also face language or cultural barriers (ibid.; Alternative Chance 17 May 2012; defend.ht 30 Apr. 2012). The Executive Director of Alternative Chance noted that the visibility of US deportees contributes to their vulnerability to violence and discrimination (17 May 2012). In addition, the US has reportedly deported Haitian nationals with serious medical conditions, including mental illness and diabetes (ibid.; FCIR 13 Nov. 2011; Center for Constitutional Rights et al. Mar. 2012). Deportees with medical problems are reported to be unable to access the medical care or medications that they require (ibid.; Alternative Chance 17 May 2012).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Alternative Chance. 17 May 2012. Correspondence from the Executive Director to the Research Directorate.
_____. N.d. "About Alternative Chance."
Center for Constitutional Rights. N.d. "Haiti: IACHR - Haitian Removals."
Center for Constitutional Rights, University of Miami Immigration and Human Rights Clinics, Americans for Immigrant Justice, FANM, and Alternative Chance. March 2012. "Stop Deportations to Haiti."
defend.ht. 30 April 2012. "Haiti-USA: US Deportations to Haiti Are Inhumane and Tear Families Apart."
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR). 13 November 2011. "US Deportees to Haiti, Jailed Without Cause, Face Severe Health Risks."
_____. N.d. "About FCIR."
Haitian Diaspora Working in Haiti (HDWIH). 15 May 2012. Telephone interview with the President.
_____. N.d. "About Us."
Igarapé Institute. March 2012. Athena R. Kolbe and Robert Muggah. Haiti's Urban Crime Wave? Results from Monthly Household Surveys, August 2011-February 2012.
_____. N.d. "Igarapé."
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). 27 April 2012. Correspondence from the Director to the Research Directorate.
_____. N.d. "What We Do."
University of Miami Immigration and Human Rights Clinics, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Alternative Chance. 23 February 2011. "The Results ofo the Recent US Decision to Resume Deportations to Haiti: Deporatations, Detention and Death."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Representatives of the following were unable to provide information for this Response: GRAHN-Monde, Haiti Solidarity BC, Organisation têtes ensemble Internationale SOS Haïti. The University of Miami Immigration and Human Rights Clinics were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response. Attempts to contact three other Haitian community organizations in Canada and four human rights organizations in Haiti were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International; Bottin Haïtien; Council on Hemispheric Affairs; The Financial Times; Foreign Policy; Haiti — Ministère des haïtiens vivant à l'étranger; Freedom House; Haïti Libre; Haïti Liberté; International Crisis Group; International Organization for Migration; The Miami Herald; Organisation for International Co-operation and Development; Solidarité Haïti; United Nations — Integrated Regional Information Networks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, Stabilization Mission in Haiti; The Washington Times.