02 May 2024, The Tablet

Deportation to Haiti ‘unconscionable’ says Miami archbishop

Returning migrants to Haiti is like “sending people back into a burning house”, Archbishop Thomas G Wenski said.

Deportation to Haiti ‘unconscionable’ says Miami archbishop

A US coastguard cutter approaches a vessel carrying migrants from Haiti in May 2022.
US Coast Guard / Alamy

The Archbishop of Miami denounced the Biden administration’s decision to resume deportations of Haitian migrants despite the political crisis and violence in Port-au-Prince.

“These deportations are unconscionable given the realities on the ground,” said Archbishop Thomas G Wenski, whose diocese includes a significant Haitian population. 

He compared the decision to “sending people back into a burning house”, as Haiti faces “increasing gang violence and [a] growing humanitarian and health crisis, with no real functioning government”.

Speaking on 22 April after the government that deportations would resume after their suspension since January, Wenski – who is fluent in Haitian Creole – supported the outrage of Florida’s Haitian American community, describing the move as, “inconsistent with our international treaties regarding ‘non-refoulement’ of asylum seekers”.

Under the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, the principle of non-refoulement provides that refugees cannot be expelled to territories where substantial threats to life or freedom exist.

In March, the government urged all US citizens to leave Haiti because of the unrest, but in April, it returned 50 Haitian citizens to the country. Wenski said that one of those was “a convicted drug dealer and one-time insurgent who is now seeking to take power in Haiti’s very complicated political system”.

During his visit to Venice on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Haiti and all war-torn countries before the recitation of the Regina Caeli after Mass in St Mark’s Square.

“I am thinking of Haiti, where a state of emergency is in force and the population is desperate because of the collapse of the health system, the shortage of food, and the violence that drives people to flee,” he said.

Noting that a transitional council has been installed in the Caribbean island nation, the Pope said: “We entrust to the Lord the work of the new presidential transitional council that took office last Thursday in Port-au-Prince, so that with the renewed support of the international community, it may lead the country to achieve the peace and stability it so badly needs.”

The council has a 22-month mandate to find a new prime minister and prepare for an eventual presidential election.

Even as the council was sworn in, there were reports of arson attacks and gunfire in Port-au-Prince’s Delmas areas. Armed gangs are active in around 80 per cent of the capital.

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