December 6, 2022

Chaos at Haiti’s main airport as US deports migrants

Haiti’s main airport descended into chaos Friday as US authorities deported migrants back to the poor Caribbean nation, with hundreds of people converging on the tarmac and at least one man being detained.

US officials have been sending Haitian migrants from across the United States back to Haiti since February under a longstanding policy that has now been intensified as President Donald Trump tries to curb illegal immigration.

The migrants are dropped off at the airport in Port-au-Prince where they are supposed to be processed before being repatriated to Haiti.

Authorities struggled to control hundreds of Haitians who spent hours Friday camped on the tarmac, some looking for family members.

At least one man was detained after clashing with Haitian police guarding an airport hangar.

Dozens of people who the US government deported boarded planes to head back to Haiti on Friday, some silently staring ahead with worry after weeks or months in US detention centers.

Others vented anger over their expulsion from the United States, with one man shouting “We are humans” in Creole before being escorted into a departure terminal.

“It’s like we arrived in hell,” said Marjorie Val6n, who spent three weeks at a jail in Arizona before being sent to Haiti. “I don’t know what to do.”

The flights left throughout the day from Port-au-Prince as US officials worked with their Haitian counterparts on logistics. Officials have not said how many people they expect to deport.

Many of the estimated 58,000 Haitians in the United States who face expulsion escaped the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and destroyed much of Haiti’s capital.

“I can’t think right now,” said Josue Larose, 27, who was deported after living in Miami since age eight. “I’m worried for my life.”

He had been detained in Florida for about a month, he said. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and remains in recovery mode years after the earthquake, which left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

A statement on Haiti’s embassy website says Haitian authorities are prepared to receive the migrants being deported under “humane conditions.”

Most of the Haitians being expelled have criminal records, according to US government officials.

Some of their home countries refuse to take them back while others delay accepting them for months. Fewer than 20 percent of Haitian migrants who were ordered out of the United States last year actually left, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s government said in a statement earlier this month that it had renewed a pact with Washington to allow expulsions of undocumented migrants “as far as possible” from the US-Mexico border.

Unlike in previous administrations, the Trump White House is detaining more people — recent border crossers and illegal immigrant residents with no criminal record — as they await deportation decisions.

Asylum seekers are a different category of migrants, who remain in US detention centers while immigration authorities consider their cases.

US officials have been trying to deport Haitians from around the country with orders dating back years, sending them