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UNHCR calls on States to refrain from forced returns of Haitians

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UNHCR calls on States to refrain from forced returns of Haitians

3 November 2022
UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency logo

Amid a devastating humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is today calling on States in the region and beyond to suspend the forced return of Haitians to their country.

Violence, including sexual violence, kidnapping, looting and roadblocks by armed gangs, and the recent outbreak of cholera, has exacerbated an already dramatic humanitarian situation in Haiti, which is marked by acute food insecurity, fuel shortages, and limited health care and sanitation. Millions of children are unable to attend school, are malnourished and live in fear.

As warned by the UN Human Rights Office, the systematic violations of rights and the unremitting armed violence have precipitated the country’s descent into its “worst human rights and humanitarian situation in decades”.

“Given this very troubling situation, I appeal to all States to stand in solidarity with Haiti and urge them not to return Haitians to a country that is extremely fragile,” said High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Haitian women, children and men who are outside the country and returned to Haiti may face life-threatening security and health risks, and further displacement inside the country.

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. International law also prohibits collective expulsions and arbitrary detention associated with it.

UNHCR reminds States that Haitians who wish to seek international protection should have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures.

UNHCR also calls on States to halt forcible returns of Haitian nationals who have had their asylum claims rejected prior to recent events. This includes those who may not previously have been in need of international protection but for whom the changed circumstances in Haiti present new grounds for an asylum claim.

In view of the current dire situation, we encourage governments to ensure that Haitians have access to protection and support services regardless of their reasons for leaving their country. For those not eligible for refugee protection, this may be achieved through granting of complementary protection, temporary protection, humanitarian admission or other legal stay arrangements until the security situation in Haiti permits safe returns.

The UN continues to work with the Government of Haiti, civil society groups and private sector stakeholders in pursuit of a peaceful, secure and prosperous future for the country.

UNHCR also stands ready to support governments throughout the region to ensure respect for the rights of Haitians, including by helping in the design and implementation of complementary protection mechanisms or other legal stay arrangements where needed.

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