Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, mainly from Haiti, have been deported from the United States and Mexico in the past month. Many of them have been forced to leave the countries without being given the opportunity to seek asylum. Several human rights organizations claim that this is both discriminatory, illegal treatment and something that violates migrants' human rights.
In mid-September movies were spread via social media when US border police beat whips against migrants trying to cross the Rio Grande - the river that forms the border between the United States and Mexico on the eastern side of the continent. A few weeks ago, the two border countries began deport migrants by air and highway to various home and transit countries in Central America and the Caribbean and specifically to Haiti.
While the United States has deported more than 6 migrants to Haiti since the beginning of September, Mexico has recently begun so-called 'humanitarian voluntary travel' to the country. This is now being questioned by, among others Human Rights Watch who are critical of whether these trips are in fact humanitarian and voluntary.
Haitier at the center of the debate
To understand the situation with Haitian migrants, we have to go back to the strong earthquake that took place a little over ten years ago. The natural disaster left a country in ruins and tens of thousands of people in financial difficulties. Haiti has since had difficulty getting back on its feet and over the years many have chosen to migrate to different countries in South and Central America.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Haitians are once again unable to support themselves in these countries and have made waves in pilgrimage north towards Mexico and the American border.
The freelance journalist Åsa Welander is based in Mexico City and has covered the region for several years. She believes that although the situation with Haitians has become a news item, it is important to remember that in general there are always a lot of migrants on both sides of the border.
- It is very clear how politics, economics and events such as natural disasters affect the flow, even if it is constant, of which groups of migrants move at a certain time, she says.
That was after just over 14 Haitians camped in and around Ciudad Acuña and the Rio Grande in September when the announcement of assisted 'voluntary' travel to Haiti was introduced. From the US side, the deportation is legitimized under the Covid-19-related policy Title 42. The policy gives the United States the right to deport people who are not US citizens, permanently resident in the United States or have valid travel documents.
Mexico, on the other hand, has chosen to send migrants to the southern parts of the country to seek asylum or assist them to their home countries in so-called 'voluntary' forms.
José Miguel Vivanco, CEO of Human Rights Watch, points out that political chaos, extensive natural disasters and security risks prevailing in Haiti mean that the country is incapable of caring for returnees. He is not alone in reacting strongly to the two countries' handling of the situation.
The US envoy to Haiti, diplomat Daniel Foote, announced in September that he resigns as a result of the US decision to deport migrants to Haiti.
- I do not want to stand behind the inhumane and counterproductive decision of the United States to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal migrants to Haiti, a country that the United States itself considers extremely dangerous. declared Daniel Foote in his resignation letter.
Discriminatory migration policies from Trump's term remain alive
The situation with the Haitian migrants has brought to life the debate about the US and Mexico's handling of migrants and many believe that it is highly discriminatory. This is because the majority of the people who have been deported under Title 42 are migrants who often mean that they belong to a minority population. Title 42 is one of several migration policy USA still applies today introduced by former President Donald Trump. This fact has meant that current President Joe Biden has received extensive criticism to continue pursuing an 'inhuman migration policy' - and something that many believe violates his election promises.
In early 2016, the then US presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech that became the watchword, and to some extent reality, for US foreign and migration policy in the years to come. Trump then promised that a wall would be built along the southern border of the United States - a wall that Mexico would pay for. A few years later, the wall is largely a reality along large parts of the border. The subsequent migration policy has according to critic characterized by mistrust, racism and was largely treated as a matter of national security.
Åsa Welander believes that during Trump's presidency, many changes took place regarding American migration policy, something many believed would come to an end when Biden took power. Instead, several tightened and, according to many, discriminatory migration policies survive in desperate attempts to prevent people from entering the country. Åsa Welander thinks that the rights of migrants often become an issue for voluntary organizations and human rights defenders and nothing that takes any major place on the political agenda.
- Every time the countries tighten controls to stop migrants, it almost always means that migrants are pressured to take more dangerous roads and more risks.