Archive for April, 2008

Hungry Haitians head to sea as food prices soar

Posted in English, Hunger/Faim/Fin/Hambre, Immigration, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 24, 2008 by haitiinthenews
More boat people try to leave island each week than usually attempt it in a month, official says
Apr 24, 2008 04:30 AM

 
REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
MONTROUIS, Haiti–Acute hunger and the rising cost of living could send a new wave of boat people from Haiti, where rising food prices set off deadly riots two weeks ago and drove the prime minister from office, officials and analysts say.

In the port town of Montrouis, about 80 kilometres north of Port-au-Prince, desperate Haitians say they will seize the first opportunity to take a boat toward the U.S. coast to escape the misery that plagues Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

“I will leave with the next boat going to Miami because I can no longer resist this hunger,” said Marcel Jonassaint, 34.

“I have four children and I don’t have a job and everything is expensive, even for those who are working. So what do you want me to do?”

Montrouis overlooks the island of La Gonâve, reputed as a key launching point for migrant boats.

“I left earlier this year,” said 29-year-old Rachel Chavanne. “Our boat was intercepted in the high seas, but I will try again.”

Haitian legislators fired prime minister Jacques Eduard Alexis this month to quell anger over rising food prices that sparked violent protests and looting that left six people dead in a week.

The director of the country’s national migration office, Jeanne Bernard Pierre, said since the food crisis, her agency has received more repatriated Haitian boat people in a week than it used to receive in a month or more.

“We have received 212 repatriated last week, we have just received 227 and we are receiving 114 tomorrow,” Pierre said.

“It is clear that more boat people have been leaving the country and you should expect even more if they cannot find an alternative,” said Pierre, who urged the government and the international community to set up programs to ease the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 972 Haitian migrants at sea since Oct. 1, compared with 376 during the same period last year. But the numbers typically fluctuate and it’s impossible to link any spike to any one event such as the recent food riots, Petty Officer Barry Bena said.

 

Pierre said her office is doing its best to persuade suffering Haitians to stay home, but “they believe the only alternative left for them is to leave.”

 

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Search is on for missing Haitian migrants

Posted in English, Immigration, Miami Herald, Photo, Smuggling, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 22, 2008 by haitiinthenews

BAHAMAS | TRAGEDY AT SEA

Rescuers are looking for missing Haitians in Bahamian waters amid growing concerns about organized criminal smuggling rings operating in the Florida Straits.

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

A Haitian migrant, right, that survived after his boat sank off Nassau, Bahamas, is questioned by a Bahamian official at the Nassau Harbour Patrol Unit on Sunday, April 20, 2008. Haitians fleeing their impoverished homeland met tragedy when their boat went down off the Bahamas, killing at least 20 people and leaving only three known survivors, including the alleged migrant smuggler, authorities said Monday.
BRENT DEAN / AP
A Haitian migrant, right, that survived after his boat sank off Nassau, Bahamas, is questioned by a Bahamian official at the Nassau Harbour Patrol Unit on Sunday, April 20, 2008. Haitians fleeing their impoverished homeland met tragedy when their boat went down off the Bahamas, killing at least 20 people and leaving only three known survivors, including the alleged migrant smuggler, authorities said Monday.

The government of the Bahamas and the U.S. Coast Guard will resume their search of Bahamian waters on Tuesday for missing Haitian migrants presumed to be among 25 in a “migrant smuggling operation gone bad.”

Fourteen bodies, mostly women, have been plucked from shark-infested waters off Nassau since Sunday, said Ralph McKinney, a Royal Bahamas Defence Force chief petty officer.

Authorities said one woman survived the ordeal by holding onto a body.

All day Monday U.S. Coast Guard jets and helicopters hovered while good Samaritan boaters assisted Bahamian and U.S. Coast Guard vessels searching 14 miles north of Nassau. The search area extended as far east as the Eleuthra chain and west to Lyford Cay.

”We will resume at first light,” McKinney said from Nassau on Monday.

Only three survivors — a Haitian man and a woman and one Honduran man — had been rescued in the trip that Bahamian authorities believe involved as many as 25 passengers.

The alleged smuggler now in custody: the Honduran, who told authorities he was out fishing but was identified by one of the survivors as the boat captain.

”All signs point to migrant smuggling,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Nick Ameen. ‘It’s a smuggling operation gone wrong, and that is why we always try to get the message out: `This is so dangerous.’ People usually place themselves in harm’s way, and unfortunately in this case, we didn’t find them until it was too late.”

SMUGGLING RINGS

The latest events come as U.S. authorities intensify efforts to shut down organized criminal smuggling rings amid growing concerns about a spike in migrant deaths at sea and a three-year increase in smuggling operations from Cuba.

It also comes as the Bahamas and nearby Turks and Caicos grow increasingly alarmed about illegal migration from Haiti, where recent deadly street demonstrations over rising food and fuel prices destabilized the government, raising fears that more Haitians will take to the high seas in search of better opportunities abroad.

”This is the season for Haitians to try and jump on a boat to come to the United States, and also for Cubans,” said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, who during a visit Monday with Haitian President René Préval offered his condolences over the deaths and raised concerns about illegal migration. “But I think with the unrest . . . in Haiti, it continues to promote the thinking that one can take to the sea and find a better life in the United States.”

Bahamian officials said that while the deaths at sea put the spotlight on the human toll, migrant smuggling has never gone away. It is a constant and ongoing battle for an island chain caught between Haiti’s economic hardship on one end and Cuba’s political change on the other.

”It’s a tremendous strain on our limited resources,” said Tommy Turnquest, the Bahamas minister of national security. “Last year alone just in terms of apprehension and repatriation exercises cost us a lot of money. Not only that, but then there are those that are here and the strain on our healthcare system, social services system.”

Turnquest did not immediately have dollar figures for his government’s repatriation of 7,000 illegal migrants last year. He said the island chain has attempted to address the problem by patrolling its porous border with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard.

`ILLEGAL ENTRY’

”Because of our proximity, over the years quite a number of persons have tried to gain illegal entry into the United States by using the Bahamas as a stepping stone,” said Vernon Burrows, director of immigration for the Bahamas. “They are looking at us.”

They include not just Haitians and Cubans, but also Brazilians.

While a U.S. Coast Guard cutter was en route from Miami to the Bahamas Sunday to help search for survivors, crew members came across a disabled vessel with 10 Brazilians aboard. They were trying to gain illegal entry into the United States, both Bahamian and Coast Guard officials confirmed.

”The Brazilians at one time used to enter the United States illegally by crossing the Mexican border,” Burrows said. “The Mexican government, in order to more or less curtail that, implemented a visa requirement out of Mexico. . . . Now they are looking for alternative routes.”

50-MILE GAP

That alternative is the Bahamas, where just 50 miles separate the island of Bimini from the South Florida coastline.

The female survivor revealed to officials that the passengers were headed to Bimini after leaving the docks of Nassau under the cover of darkness in an overcrowded vessel with an engine, Burrows said. From there, they were supposed to be transported to the United States.

”She said she was in Nassau for two weeks,” Burrows said, adding that the woman indicated she was originally from the Cap-Haitien area.

The woman, he said, is in very bad physical health after being in saltwater for so long.

The survivors told Bahamian officials they had been in the water since 10 a.m. Saturday. No sign of the boat has been found.

About 4:45 a.m. Sunday, a crew member of a fishing vessel heard people screaming in the water. After they searched for an hour, they notified the Bahamian Air Sea Rescue Association. At 7 a.m. the U.S. Coast Guard was notified and launched a helicopter from nearby Andros Island in the Bahamas. About 10 a.m. Sunday, they found five bodies in the water.

Realizing they needed to search a larger area, the Coast Guard contacted its Miami office for help.

McKinney said he couldn’t be certain that all of the migrants were Haitian because “of the pigmentation of the skin.”

”This is a terrible thing to do to people,” he said.

Jhacson Brave of Sebring told The Palm Beach Post that his cousin Roselene Almonor, 31, of Haiti was on the boat and expected to meet up with relatives in Miami.

He told The Post that Almonor had been living in the Bahamas for a few months and was planning to come to the United States to be with her boyfriend.

Miami Herald staff writers Erika Beras and Trenton Daniel contributed to this report.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/504636.html

US Coast Guard says bodies of 20 migrants found near Bahamas

Posted in English, Immigration, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 21, 2008 by haitiinthenews

2 hours ago

NASSAU, Bahamas — The bodies of 20 migrants have been recovered from the sea near the Bahamas after their boat apparently capsized, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday as it searched for survivors.

The bodies of 19 Haitians and one Honduran were recovered and three survivors — two Haitians and one Honduran — have been found, said Barry Bena, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami. Authorities are interviewing the survivors to determine what happened.

The search-and-rescue mission began Sunday after fishermen heard people screaming in the water.

The accident happened about 15 miles northwest of Nassau, Bahamas, according to the Coast Guard. A cutter, helicopter and a jet from the Coast Guard and two Bahamas military vessels continued searching the area Monday, Bena said.

Every year, thousands of Haitians try to leave the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country aboard rickety, overloaded boats for other islands or the United States.

Soaring food prices have pushed many into abject poverty and triggered riots earlier this month in Haiti, but this has not translated so far into a spike in the number of migrants.

Last year a migrant boat capsized near the Turks and Caicos islands, pitching Haitians into shark-infested waters. At least 61 people died.

http://www.comcast.net/news/articles/general/2008/04/21/Bahamas.Migrants.Drown/

U.N. to increase food distribution in Haiti

Posted in English, Hunger/Faim/Fin/Hambre, Miami Herald, Photo, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 20, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press

Haitians line up for food and clothes distributed by Brazilian UN Peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince on Thursday
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Haitians line up for food and clothes distributed by Brazilian UN Peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince on Thursday

 

The United Nations will distribute 8,000 tons of food in Haiti to counter rising prices that have led to protests and violence, the organization announced Thursday. 

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said the distribution of food by the World Food Program in coming days will focus on children, pregnant women and nursing mothers in the north, west and central regions of Haiti.

Anger over rising food prices has threatened the stability of the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the Western hemisphere and already haunted by chronic hunger.

The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, will double its child feeding program to combat malnutrition and spend some $1.6 million on water and sanitation projects in the northwest and Artibonite regions, Montas said.

Globally, food prices have risen 40 percent since mid-2007. Haiti has been particularly hard hit because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice. Once-productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil devastated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms.

Hunger-provoked protests and looting in Port-au-Prince left at least seven dead last week, including a Nigerian officer with the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti who was pulled from a car and killed Saturday afternoon. Three Sri Lankan peacekeepers on patrol were injured by gunfire early last week.

The riots also cost Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis his job.

Meanwhile, Brazilian members of the U.N. peacekeeping force distributed some 14 tons of rice, beans, sugar and cooking oil to 1,500 families in sprawling Cite Soleil Tuesday.

The WFP and the U.N. mission in Haiti continue to support various projects aimed at creating jobs, Montas said. Some 2,500 Haitians are already employed by these projects which have a combined budget of $2.3 million, she said.

 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/500034.html

U.N. will pursue Haiti peacekeeper’s killers

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Photo, Shootings, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 20, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press

U.N. Nigerian peacekeepers carry the coffin of fellow peacekeeper Nagya Aminu during his funeral service in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday
ARIANA CUBILLOS/AP PHOTO
U.N. Nigerian peacekeepers carry the coffin of fellow peacekeeper Nagya Aminu during his funeral service in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday

 

U.N. officials pledged Friday to pursue those responsible for slaying a Nigerian peacekeeper during food riots in the Haitian capital. 

Cpl. Aminu Nagya was dragged from his vehicle and shot in the neck April 12 in the first execution-style slaying of a U.N. peacekeeper in Haiti since the multinational force arrived to restore order in the troubled Caribbean country in 2004.

”We will pursue the authors of this crime with the strongest determination until they are brought to justice,” U.N. envoy Hedi Annabi told dozens of peacekeepers who gathered at a military hospital for a memorial service for the slain Nigerian police officer.

The 36-year-old Nagya, who was married and had one son, had been in Haiti since December as part of the 9,000-member force of international soldiers and police officers.

At least seven people were killed during violent protests earlier this month over food prices. Schools and businesses have since reopened and the mass demonstrations have ended, but U.N. and Haitian officials say the impoverished country remains unstable.

 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/501141.html

Food Aid Arrives in Haiti, but many are left out

Posted in English, Hunger/Faim/Fin/Hambre, Miami Herald, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 20, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press

 

Hundreds of Haitians stood in long lines Saturday, just as others had walked for hours throughout the week to receive the U.N. and regional food aid pouring into the country after a spate of deadly riots. 

But amid the tenuous calm, aid groups say they are just buying time — and long-term solutions seem remote in the desperately poor nation.

”The beans might last four days,” said Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children who emerged from a churchyard Friday with small bags of food. “The rice will be gone as soon as I get home.”

Rodman was one of the lucky ones. Luis Elaine, 48, clutched an empty sack after being told at the same church that there was no food left. Many distribution centers simply ran out.

”I just hope God will provide something,” Elaine said.

More than half of Haiti’s nearly 9 million people live on less than $2 a day, but the sharp rise in prices has thrown some of those who could barely support themselves into the throngs of the utterly destitute.

Market stalls are piled with papayas and small bags of pasta, even in poor areas, but vast numbers of people simply lack money to buy them because global food and commodity prices have risen 40 percent over the past year.

At least seven people were killed in the food riots this month that cost Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis his job.

The riots also were a setback to international efforts to stabilize the country, U.N. envoy Hedi Annabi said. U.N. peacekeepers came after a violent rebellion ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

”We now need to turn this around, draw the lessons from this crisis and move ahead,” Annabi told The Associated Press.

The United Nations says it will distribute 8,000 tons of food and other aid in the next two months. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pledged more than 350 tons of food. And U.S. President George W. Bush has ordered the release of $200 million in emergency aid to nations hit hardest by surging food prices — though it was not immediately clear how much Haiti would get.

Brazil has given some 18 tons of food since the crisis began.

”It’s not much, we are aware of that, but it’s something,” Brazilian Ambassador Igor Kipman told the AP at the churchyard in a part of the capital known as Cite Militaire. “You have an emergency, people are hungry, so we are handing out some food for the immediate problem.”

As he spoke, Brazilian marines gave out rice, sugar, beans and cooking oil, while others armed with shotguns and automatic rifles stood guard or monitored the scene from armored vehicles and rooftops.

Hundreds of people, including many small children, thronged the steel gates outside another church, where aid workers were giving out bags of food donated by Venezuela.

Relief group World Vision said food distribution this week in Haiti’s Central Plateau, north of the capital, drew about 800 people over two days, some who had walked more than three hours.

The sharp rise in prices has thrown some of those who could barely support themselves into the throngs of the utterly destitute.

Rodman said he was so desperate to feed his family that he pawned the tools he used to make furniture and now has no way to earn an income. The 38-year-old said his wife is angry and frustrated.

”She tells me to go out and get a job, buy some food,” he said, drying his tears with his dusty, blue Puma T-shirt. “This is the first time I’ve had to lower myself and come get this food.”

Since the riots a little more than a week ago, the U.N. multinational force of about 9,000 soldiers and police and Haitian police have increased patrols and checkpoints, hoping to catch gang members and confiscate weapons. Many fear that violence could easily return.

”Things are back to normal but it’s precarious, it’s fragile,” said Fred Blaise, the spokesman for the U.N. police force.

But most agree the short-term situation is bleak. Haiti’s economy has been shattered by years of political turmoil. The nation’s infrastructure is in a shambles and its agricultural sector has been devastated by inefficiency, cheaper imports — primarily from the U.S. — and a shortage of arable land.

World Vision, which is distributing $80 million of U.S. aid in Haiti over five years, says it is trying to raise private donations to buy more food and will distribute seeds and tools in the countryside, where the poverty is most extreme.

Aid groups are also struggling with higher prices and say they do not have huge stocks that they can easily divert from one needy group to another.

”We are dealing with a very fluid situation,” said Rose Kimeu of World Vision. “People are getting angrier and angrier.”

 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/502289.html

Food Aid Arrives in Haiti Amid Protests, Political Unrest

Posted in English, Fox News, Hunger/Faim/Fin/Hambre, Riots/Émeutes/Motines, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on April 20, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Saturday , April 19, 2008

AP

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — 

Hundreds of Haitians stood in long lines Saturday, just as others had walked for hours throughout the week to receive the U.N. and regional food aid pouring into the country after a spate of deadly riots. 

But amid the tenuous calm, aid groups say they are just buying time — and long-term solutions seem remote in the desperately poor nation.

“The beans might last four days,” said Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children who emerged from a churchyard Friday with small bags of food. “The rice will be gone as soon as I get home.”

Rodman was one of the lucky ones. Luis Elaine, 48, clutched an empty sack after being told at the same church that there was no food left. Many distribution centers simply ran out.

“I just hope God will provide something,” Elaine said.

More than half of Haiti’s nearly 9 million people live on less than $2 a day, but the sharp rise in prices has thrown some of those who could barely support themselves into the throngs of the utterly destitute.

Market stalls are piled with papayas and small bags of pasta, even in poor areas, but vast numbers of people simply lack money to buy them because global food and commodity prices have risen 40 percent over the past year.

At least seven people were killed in the food riots this month that cost Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis his job.

The riots also were a setback to international efforts to stabilize the country, U.N. envoy Hedi Annabi said. U.N. peacekeepers came after a violent rebellion ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

“We now need to turn this around, draw the lessons from this crisis and move ahead,” Annabi told The Associated Press.

The United Nations says it will distribute 8,000 tons of food and other aid in the next two months. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pledged more than 350 tons of food. And U.S. President George W. Bush has ordered the release of $200 million in emergency aid to nations hit hardest by surging food prices — though it was not immediately clear how much Haiti would get.

Brazil has given some 18 tons of food since the crisis began.

“It’s not much, we are aware of that, but it’s something,” Brazilian Ambassador Igor Kipman told the AP at the churchyard in a part of the capital known as Cite Militaire. “You have an emergency, people are hungry, so we are handing out some food for the immediate problem.”

As he spoke, Brazilian marines gave out rice, sugar, beans and cooking oil, while others armed with shotguns and automatic rifles stood guard or monitored the scene from armored vehicles and rooftops.

Hundreds of people, including many small children, thronged the steel gates outside another church, where aid workers were giving out bags of food donated by Venezuela.

Relief group World Vision said food distribution this week in Haiti’s Central Plateau, north of the capital, drew about 800 people over two days, some who had walked more than three hours.

The sharp rise in prices has thrown some of those who could barely support themselves into the throngs of the utterly destitute.

Rodman said he was so desperate to feed his family that he pawned the tools he used to make furniture and now has no way to earn an income. The 38-year-old said his wife is angry and frustrated.

“She tells me to go out and get a job, buy some food,” he said, drying his tears with his dusty, blue Puma T-shirt. “This is the first time I’ve had to lower myself and come get this food.”

Since the riots a little more than a week ago, the U.N. multinational force of about 9,000 soldiers and police and Haitian police have increased patrols and checkpoints, hoping to catch gang members and confiscate weapons. Many fear that violence could easily return.

“Things are back to normal but it’s precarious, it’s fragile,” said Fred Blaise, the spokesman for the U.N. police force.

But most agree the short-term situation is bleak. Haiti’s economy has been shattered by years of political turmoil. The nation’s infrastructure is in a shambles and its agricultural sector has been devastated by inefficiency, cheaper imports — primarily from the U.S. — and a shortage of arable land.

World Vision, which is distributing $80 million of U.S. aid in Haiti over five years, says it is trying to raise private donations to buy more food and will distribute seeds and tools in the countryside, where the poverty is most extreme.

Aid groups are also struggling with higher prices and say they do not have huge stocks that they can easily divert from one needy group to another.

“We are dealing with a very fluid situation,” said Rose Kimeu of World Vision. “People are getting angrier and angrier.”

http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,351830,00.html