by Yves Pierre-Louis (haiti Liberte)
Hundreds of Haitians, since the beginning of 2013, continue to risk their lives to seek a better life abroad, to escape poverty, hunger, unemployment, and poor living conditions. Promises of change and millions or even billions of dollars released in the name of alleviating poverty in Haiti never seem able to actually improve the living conditions of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest people.
Haitians living in the most remote corners of the country have no choice but to flee to the Dominican Republic, Florida, and other Caribbean Islands.
During March 2013, many compatriots who had braved the danger of emigrating found themselves repatriated. On Mar. 26, 75 Haitians, including 36 women, were repatriated to Cap-Haïtien, the country’s second largest city, having been intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard off Puerto Rico a week earlier.
On Mar. 27, a group of 48 Haitians were arrested by Puerto Rican Police in the District of Isabella on the west coast of the island. During the Easter weekend, another group of 43 Haitian boat people were arrested off Jamaica. They were all from the Grand Anse department in Haiti’s South-West.
According to refugees, they tried to flee the country for the same reasons: unemployment, poverty, hunger, poor living conditions, and loss of hope. “We are unable to meet our daily needs,” said one on his return. “We are chronically unemployed. We have no assistance in working our fields. Our children cannot continue their studies. The cost of living continues to rise to dizzying heights. We are left to ourselves. We have no choice but to risk our lives in search of a better life elsewhere.”
The Haitian government, which satisfies itself with generating false propaganda in an attempt to put people to sleep, offers no solution to this problem. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Haiti is said to have budgeted $100,000 to carry out a program, which is clearly ineffective, aimed at educating Haitians, especially those living in Haiti’s Northwest department, about the dangers of “illegal” migration. Through this fund, the IOM plans to continue its information campaign in the media and through a radio drama entitled “chimen lakay” (the path home). It also plans to provide assistance to returnees, giving them transport, temporary shelter, and medical assistance after registering them. This process is carried out with the assistance of the staff of the National Office of Migration (ONM), a Haitian state agency responsible for giving support to Haitian returnees.
However, the political and economic situation in Haiti is steadily worsening. Marginalized people, both in the cities’ slums and the remote countryside, are the main victims. On Apr. 3, the UN announced that more than more than 1.5 million Haitians are at risk of malnutrition because of crops lost due to Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaac last year.
Just as under the Duvalier regime, Haitian refugees are increasingly taking to sailboats to escape hunger in Haiti.