Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security agency charged with deporting people from the United States, scheduled 100 people to be returned to Haiti on Mon., May 11 from the Pine Prairie Detention Center in Louisiana. The group was to include five individuals either having tested positive for COVID-19 or showing signs of having the disease. (Miami Herald, May 8). At the last minute, the five Covid-positive detainees were pulled off the plane, along with 45 others, according to the Miami Herald. The jet that arrived in Port-au-Prince from San Antonio, TX carried only 50 deportees: 14 with criminal charges against them and 36 others, including children. The Haitian government is quarantining the deportees for 14 days in hotels.
Ironically, the U.S. State Department issued a Mar. 31 official advisory to “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.” President Trump boasts that he has done a great deal to protect the “American people” by restricting travel to the U.S. from China and Europe.
While other Caribbean countries have been the targets of COVID-19-positive deportations, Haiti is particularly vulnerable. According to Haiti’s National Institute of Statistics, the country has only 911 doctors for 11 million people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports Haiti has over 900 health institutions. More than half are in the capital, Port-au-Prince, which is home to about one-third of the nation’s people.
While other Caribbean countries have been the targets of COVID-19-positive deportations, Haiti is particularly vulnerable.
Public health officials in Haiti feel they have to quarantine, at major expense, anybody entering the country, especially if they have been exposed to COVID-19. There are only two small laboratories in Haiti that can test for the disease.
As of May 12, Haiti’s Public Health Ministry announced there were 209 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths in the country. The true figures, as in the U.S., are much higher due to lack of testing.
Almost six million Haitians live under the poverty line on $2.41 a day, according to the World Bank. Inflation is running at about 20%. While the figures haven’t been tabulated yet, remittances from Haitians working abroad — which contribute about 30% of Haiti’s gross domestic product — are sharply falling.
Many Haitians living in North America and Western Europe worked at jobs that have been wiped out in the COVID-19-induced economic crisis. About one-third of all food consumed in Haiti is imported, so a jump in inflation, plus the loss of remittances, is expected to push “food insecurity” into hunger — and the beginnings of famine.
Much of Haiti’s economic devastation can be traced to France and the United States making Haiti pay, time and time again, for the Haitian people’s “original sin” — carrying out history’s first and last successful slave revolution from 1791 to 1804, then founding the first black republic. France wrested 90 million gold francs in damages from Latin America’s first nation, worth over $21 billion (with interest) today. In a just world, Haiti would be entitled to reparations.
Beyond its economic underdevelopment, Haiti has suffered from several disasters. A 2010 earthquake killed tens of thousands. An ensuing cholera epidemic imported by United Nations “peacekeepers” lasted for nine years, killing 10,000 people and sickening over 800,000. Hurricanes Matthew, Irma, and Maria also did major damage.
Politically, sharp hikes in fuel prices sparked huge protests in 2018, severely disrupting the economy. Billions of dollars of aid from a program called PetroCaribe, funded by Venezuela and supplying oil at cut-rate prices, was diverted into politicians’ pockets. In 2019, hundreds of thousands of people marched to demand that President Jovenel Moïse resign because he had mismanaged the economy and was corrupt.
Mass protests in 2020 have been curtailed by the pandemic, but there’s awareness that Haiti has the right not to receive people the U.S. deports. Haiti’s Foreign Minister last month politely asked the U.S. to refrain from deportations at this time. The Family Action Network Movement (FANM) sent an Apr. 22 letter to President Jovenel Moïse requesting that he stop accepting these deportations in order to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti.
The original version of this article appeared on the website of Workers World.