Political instability intensified in Haiti in 2001, particularly in December, when an armed attack on the National Palace in Port-au-Prince led to widespread violence. Departures of unauthorized migrants from Haiti increased markedly at the end of the year.

Haitians were scattered across the region in 2001. An estimated 1 million were living in the Dominican Republic, 1 million in the United States, 50,000 in the Bahamas, 40,000 in French Guyana, 25,000 in Martinique and Guadeloupe, 1,000 in Jamaica, 1,000 in Venezuela, and 500 in Cuba.

Because so few Haitian migrants were documented – and fewer still had access to refugee status determination procedures – the U.S. Committee for Refugees was unable to estimate the number of Haitians who might be refugees or asylum seekers.

Despite the increased violence in Haiti, neighboring countries generally continued to treat Haitians as economic migrants. Dominican migration authorities returned more than 9,000 Haitians – and the military more than 36,000 – while fewer than 100 Haitians filed asylum claims in the Dominican Republic during the year. The Bahamas returned more than 6,000 interdicted Haitians in 2001; none applied for asylum.

During the year, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted nearly 2,000 Haitians at sea and returned almost all of them to Haiti. In December alone, the United States interdicted 500 Haitians – more than in any other single month in at least five years.

Some 7,800 Haitians filed asylum applications in the United States, Canada, and France during the year, including more than 5,000 in the United States (a slight increase from 2000). Haitians had a first-instance approval rate of 24 percent with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service asylum officers, up slightly from the 2000 approval rate of 22 percent. The approval rate by immigration judges increased from about 10 percent in 2000 to about 12 percent in 2001.

Haitians deported from the United States and other countries for having committed crimes – including those who lost their refugee status because of criminal convictions – were kept in "preventive detention" in Haitian jails for indefinite periods of time. Detention facilities in Haiti were overcrowded and filthy, and detainees were not provided sufficient food or clean water. The average period of preventive detention for deportees decreased to approximately one month in 2001, compared to several months in 2000.


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