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Haitian community leaders, immigrant community members, and their supporters gather on October 22, 2021 at the Newark Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Newark, New Jersey to demand that President Biden's administration stop deportations of Haitians. © Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(Washington, DC) – The United States government should suspend deportation flights to Haiti, 74 organizations including Human Rights Watch said on September 26, 2023, in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. The groups urged him to suspend all such flights, beginning with one currently scheduled for September 28.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on all governments to “suspend the forced return of Haitians to their country” in November 2022, but the US government has sent nine deportation flights to Haiti since that time.

“These forced returns appear to conflict with the United States’ legal obligations under international law not to send people back to a place that would put them at risk of serious harm,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the current violence and lack of government security measures in Haiti, sending people back there is sending them into a disaster zone.”

UNHCR warned in its advisory for Haiti that “the forced removal of people to a place where they may face risk of persecution, torture or other serious or irreparable harm would amount to ‘refoulement,’ which is explicitly prohibited under international refugee and human rights law.”

The US government is continuing to deport Haitians to Haiti even though, on February 4, it extended the designation of Haiti for temporary protected status, based on Haiti “experiencing extraordinary and temporary conditions resulting from grave insecurity and gang crime.” Temporary protected status bars the deportation of Haitians who were present in the United States as of that date. Further, on August 30, the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince called on all Americans to leave Haiti “as soon as possible.”

“Telling Americans to leave Haiti as soon as possible because it is too dangerous for them while simultaneously loading Haitians onto deportation flights reveals a mind-boggling double standard,” Frelick said. “And the risks faced by Haitians who came after the temporary protected status eligibility date are no less than for those who were in the United States before that date.”

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