Academic journal article Refuge

In-Country Refugee Processing of Haitians: The Case Against

Academic journal article Refuge

In-Country Refugee Processing of Haitians: The Case Against

Article excerpt


Reviewing past experience with in-country processing in Haiti and its links to American interdiction policies, as well as the history of Cuban migration to the United States, this paper argues against in-country processing for Haitian refugees. The paper asserts that in-country processing in Haiti in the early 1990s was a failure, and arguably was used as a justification for returning to persecution far more people than it saved. The very existence of a small aperture through which relatively few selected individuals will be able to pass for legal admission to the United States is likely to erode the rights of many more Haitian asylum seekers seeking to leave spontaneously and, in particular, to serve to rationalize migration control measures that seriously compromise the fundamental principles of refugee law.


Apres avoir passe en revue l'experience du passe de traitement sur place a Haiti et ses liens avec les politiques americaines d'interdiction, ainsi que les antecedents de l'immigration cubaine aux Etats-Unis, cet articles' oppose fortement a la politique de traitement sur place des refugies haitiens. L'artide soutient que le traitement sur place d Haiti au debut des annees 90 s'est solde par un echec, et qu'il est permis de penser que, par la suite, cet echec a ete utilise comme justification pour renvoyer a la persecution beaucoup plus de personnes qu'il ne sauva. L'existence meme d'une petite ouverture a travers laquelle un nombre relativement restreint d'individus selectionnes pourra passer pour entrer legalement aux Etats-Unis, va tres vraisemblablement eroder les droits d'un plus grand nombre de demandeurs d'asile haitiens desireux de quitter le pays spontanement, et, en particulier, va servir a rationaliser des mesures de controle a l'immigration qui portent serieusement atteinte a l'integrite des principes fondamentaux du droit des refugies.


In the context of deteriorating human rights conditions in Haiti and continuing interdiction and summary return of Haitian boat people, U.S. government agencies are discussing the possibility of re-initiating refugee processing from within Haiti. Based on past experience with in-country processing in Haiti as well as on principles of refugee protection, this paper argues that the existence of an in-country processing program might well prevent asylum seekers who leave Haiti irregularly from having a fair hearing on their claims while also not providing a viable alternative for people who are compelled by imminent threats to flee the country.

On April 11, 2003, government officials met with four nongovernmental organizations to discuss a wide variety of concerns relating to the treatment of Haitian refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. Officials at that meeting requested a statement from those agencies specifically on resettlement and processing of Haitian refugees. They sent that memorandum on June 23, 2003. (1) While this paper respectfully differs with the recommendations in that document, the agencies endorsing both that statement and this share the critique of past and present U.S. government practices toward Haitian refugees and asylum seekers as violating their rights. The agencies endorsing this statement fully support the opening statement in the June 23, 2003, paper: "The NGOs providing these recommendations are united in their belief that the United States must comply with its obligations under both U.S. and international law to provide protection to refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution." All concerned NGOs agree that. practices of the U.S. with respect to Haitian asylum seekers, thus far, have fallen considerably short of meeting its obligations under U.S. and international law.

The History of In-Country Processing in Haiti and Its Link to Interdiction

From its inception, the in-country processing program in Haiti has been linked to U.S. …

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