Poverty, violence, and political instability intensified in Haiti in 2000. However, neighboring countries generally continued to regard Haitians as economic migrants. Because so few Haitians outside Haiti are documented, let alone allowed to undergo refugee status determination procedures, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) is unable to estimate the number of Haitians who might be refugees or bona fide asylum seekers.

Haitians were scattered across the region in 2000. According to official estimates, there were more than 1 million living in the Dominican Republic, an estimated 1 million in the United States, 50,000 in the Bahamas, 40,000 in French Guiana, 25,000 in Martinique and Guadeloupe, 1,000 in Jamaica, 1,000 in Venezuela, and 500 in Cuba.

Nearly 21,000 Haitian asylum applications were pending at year's end in the United States. More than 4,700 Haitians applied for asylum in the United States in 2000 (at least 1,700 more than in 1999). Haitians had a first-instance approval rate of 22 percent with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service asylum officers, up dramatically from 1999's approval rate of 7.6 percent. The approval rate by immigration judges declined from about 15 percent in 1999 to about 10 percent in 2000. In 2000, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted 1,113 Haitians at sea and returned almost all of them to Haiti.

In response to international pressure, including the U.S. government's suspension of aid, Haiti held elections throughout 2000 after three years without a fully functioning government and more than one year without a parliament. In an election characterized by low voter turnout, political violence, and allegations of fraud, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-elected President of Haiti in November. Opposition parties boycotted the election.

Foreign observers also stayed away because of concern about the Haitian government's failure to remedy the problems associated with the parliamentary election in May, which observers deemed tainted. Aristide's party, Lavalas, also won all nine contested Senate seats, giving the party all but one seat in the Senate and 80 percent of seats in the House of Assembly.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since early 2000, there have been an increasing number of population movements due to instability, persecution, and violence associated with elections. However, UNHCR told USCR that it could not estimate the number of persons displaced in Haiti.


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