Vulnerable Haitian men, women and children on the move in the Americas, should not be expelled from countries where they have found shelter, UN agencies said in a protection appeal on Thursday.
In a joint appeal by UN migration agency IOM, the refugee agency UNHCR, Children’s Fund UNICEF, and human rights office OHCHR, they highlighted that many Haitians in the past decade have faced a series of natural catastrophes, acute food insecurity and gang violence.
The situation inside Haiti “is bound to worsen” because of last month’s earthquake, making the island unfit for them to return, they added.
Their warning comes amid the reported expulsion of thousands of Haitians from a makeshift camp on the US border with Mexico.
The UN said those who have left the Caribbean country include unaccompanied and separated children, victims of trafficking and survivors of gender-based violence.
“Some may need international refugee protection while others may have different protection needs,” the UN agencies said, before insisting that international law “prohibits collective expulsions and requires that each case be examined individually”.
They also pointed out that discriminatory public discourse disparaging migrants, risks contributing to racism and xenophobia.
Haiti continues to face an escalation in violence and insecurity, with at least 19,000 people internally displaced in the capital Port-au-Prince in the summer of 2021 alone, they said.
Well over 20 per cent of girls and boys have been victims of sexual violence, the UN said.
In addition, it said nearly 24 percent of the population, including 12.9 percent who are children, live below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.
The UN said some 4.4 million people, or nearly 46 percent of the population, face acute food insecurity, including 1.2 million people who are at emergency levels and 3.2 million more having to cope at an official crisis level.
An estimated 217,000 children suffer from moderate-to-severe acute malnutrition, the UN said.
The agencies warned that this situation is bound to worsen as a result of the Aug. 14 earthquake and its aftermath.
“The capacity to receive returning Haitians has been strained and conditions in Haiti continue to be dire, and not conducive to forced returns, the UN agency stressed.