PORT-AU-PRINCE – Dozens of migrants upset about being deported to Haiti from the U.S. clashed with authorities while trying to rush back into a plane that landed Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince.
A security guard closed the plane door just in time as some deportees began throwing shoes at the plane, yelling, “This is abuse!" and “How is this possible?!”
The group that included men and women had disembarked from the second of four flights that arrived on Tuesday, with some temporarily losing their belongings in the scuffle as police arrived. Among those trying to get back on the plane was Maxine Orélien, who blamed Haiti's prime minister for the situation.
“What can we provide for our family?" he said. “We can't do anything for our family here. There is nothing in this country.”
Orélien is among the hundreds of migrants whom the U.S. began deporting to Haiti starting Sunday, with several more flights scheduled in upcoming days. Many of them left their country after the devastating 2010 earthquake and now worry about how they will find jobs and housing and provide for their families in a country of more than 11 million people where about 60% earn less than $2 a day.
Haiti also is struggling to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti's southern region in mid-August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying or damaging tens of thousands of homes.
Those deported with young children are especially worried about the recent spike in violence in Port-au-Prince, with gangs controlling roughly one-third of the capital. Kidnappings have become increasingly common, with targets ranging from young schoolchildren to nuns to impoverished families.
Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit, said in a statement Tuesday that it was outraged by what it called the U.S. government's inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers. It also called for an immediate halt to all Haiti-bound flights.
“During a challenging and dangerous period for Haiti, it is unthinkably cruel to send men, women and children back to what many of them do not even call ‘home’ anymore,” the group said.
Haiti's ombudsman-like Office of Citizen Protection also said it was concerned about the fate of the migrants, especially women and children, and asked for a moratorium on flights as it criticized Haitian leaders for the state of the country.
“One of the causes of this situation, considered a tragedy, remains the bad governance that has gripped the country for several decades,” it said. “And today, we are witnessing a deterioration in living conditions due to the irresponsibility of the current authorities in the protection and implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.”
Meanwhile, the future of thousands of migrants who remain along the Mexico-Texas border is in limbo. U.S. expulsion flights are expected to continue while Mexico was flying and busing some of the migrants away from the border. So far, more than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants had been removed from an encampment at Del Rio, Texas.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former U.S. President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum. U.S. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.
AP writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed to this report.