Thousands seeking to escape poverty and hunger in Haiti remain encamped as the US plans to increase the capacity of removal flights.

After a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti’s southern coast, chaos ensued. Haiti was already suffering from the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on its frail economy, as well as ongoing national unrest. So when nature struck, thousands were forced to leave their home in hopes of escaping poverty, insecurity, and hunger. Now, these migrants stand at the border, beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, awaiting their fate. 

Under the Texas-Mexico bridge

Following the national unrest, thousands of Haitians joined together in a makeshift camp under the bridge connecting Texas with Mexico. According to the mayor of Del Rio Texas, the number reached almost 10,503 migrants. He also described the situation as the “worse case of worst-case scenarios.”

“I need the administration to recognize that there is a border crisis happening in real-time right now and it has dire consequences on security, health, and safety,” he said.

The following days witnessed a further increase in the camp’s population, reaching more than 14 thousand migrants. Most of them are families trying to reach for the better side of life. 

The US’s removal flights

To tackle the issue, the United States declared a plan of increasing the number of “removal flights” for thousands of migrants arriving in the Texas border city of Del Rio. Furthermore, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the CBP dispatched almost 400 personnel to achieve better control of the area. 

Homeland Security added that it will “secure additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the hemisphere within the next 72 hours”.

Though Biden often promised a more lenient approach toward migration than his predecessor, the situation doesn’t sound promising for the migrants. Homeland Security stated that it managed to successfully move almost 2,000 people out of Del Rio for processing and possible removal from the US.

Undeterred migrants

Despite the US proclamation and efforts to expel the migrants, the migrants remain undeterred. When asked about the USA’s decision, many stated that they will still remain and try to seek asylum. 

“In Haiti, there is no security,” Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived with his wife and two daughters, told The Associated Press. “The country is in a political crisis.”

Thus, many are choosing to stay in face of all expelling plans. Thousands of migrants are waiting for proper documentation in hopes of a chance of leading a better life.

Removal process

According to Border Patrol Chief Raul L Ortiz, authorities have already managed to remove 3,300 migrants from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers. He also believes that they will be able to remove the rest within a week. 

“We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies,” Ortiz said at a news conference at the bridge.

National response

Though the country is suffering, the Haitian prime minister, Ariel Henry, tweeted about his concern over the unfolding events while also welcoming migrants back to their homeland. “We want to reassure them that measures have already been taken to give them a better welcome upon their return to the country and that they will not be left behind,” he said. Yet, he didn’t specify any details about these measures.

On the other hand, when questioned whether the nation could handle the sheer number of the returning migrants, election minister, Mathias Pierre, provided a very different point of view. 

“We have the situation in the south with the earthquake. The economy is a disaster, [and] there are no jobs,” said Mathias Pierre, while emphasizing that most Haitians aren’t able to satisfy basic needs. “The prime minister should negotiate with the US government to stop those deportations in this moment of crises.”

References:
Al Jazeera. (2021a, September 18). US steps up plan to expel Haitian migrants from Texas border city. Migration News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/18/us-ramps-up-plan-to-expel-haitian-migrants-gathered-in-texasAl Jazeera. (2021b, September 19). Haitian migrants undeterred as US begins removal flights. Migration News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/19/haitian-migrants-undeterred-by-us-plan-to-expel-themReporter, G. S. (2021, September 19). Haitian migrants intend to remain at Texas border despite plan to expel them. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/19/haitian-migrants-del-rio-texas-border