Archive for the Photo Category

Dominican Crackdown Leaves Children of Haitian Immigrants in Legal Limbo

Posted in English, Immigration, New York Times, Photo, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews
 

Francesco Broli for The New York Times

Ángel Luis Joseph, 17, training with a friend near San Pedro de Macoris, the Dominican Republic. His status as the child of Haitian immigrants threatens his dream of playing in the United States.

Published: May 25, 2008

SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, Dominican Republic — Two obsessions define this country: baseball and Haiti. Ángel Luis Joseph, a teenage outfielder with a hot bat, is caught between Dominicans’ devotion to the one and disdain for the other.

 

The New York Times

San Pedro de Macoris has produced many baseball players.

So many major leaguers have emerged from this sugar town that agents keep an eye on even pint-size players with potential. Ángel, 17, was only a lanky grade school boy when his coach noticed he showed all the signs of becoming a standout. Before long, the San Francisco Giants came calling with a $350,000 offer, he said.

But then politics interfered with his dream. To obtain a visa to the United States, Ángel went to a local government office to get a copy of his birth certificate. Little did he know that the Dominican government had recently begun a crackdown on the children of Haitian immigrants, even those like him who have lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic.

“If your last name is weird, they won’t give you your documents,” he said. “Same thing if your skin is dark like mine.”

Ángel’s request for his birth record was denied, prompting the Giants to withdraw the offer.

His parents, like hundreds of thousands of others, moved from Haiti to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s to work in the sugar cane fields. Their children were born in the Dominican Republic, grew up here and became, in their eyes at least, full-fledged Dominicans. They speak Spanish, dance merengue and play “pelota,” the popular name for the Dominican pastime baseball.

“They don’t play baseball in Haiti,” said Melanie Teff, who has studied the issue for Refugees International, an advocacy group in Washington. “That shows how Dominican this guy and many people like him are.”

The government does not necessarily agree, and Ángel awaits a ruling on his appeal for access to his Dominican birth record.

The issue arose with a fury several years ago when advocates took the government to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose jurisdiction the Dominican Republic acknowledges, to protest the denial of birth certificates to two ethnic Haitian children.

While the case was in process, the government changed its migration law in 2004 to specifically exclude the offspring of Haitian migrants from citizenship. The Dominican Constitution grants citizenship to those born on Dominican soil, except the children of diplomats and those “in transit.” That has long meant that the children of immigrants, no matter their legal status, gained Dominican citizenship.

After the international court ruled against the Dominican government in 2005, ordering that damages be paid to the two children, the Dominican Supreme Court said that Haitian workers were considered “in transit” and that their children were therefore Haitian, not Dominican.

Last spring, the government agency in charge of identity documents, the Joint Electoral Council, issued a memorandum telling its employees to watch for the offspring of foreigners trying to identify themselves as Dominican. It now hangs at every clerk’s office and is shown to people thought to have Haitian blood.

“The issue of Haiti has become very combustible in the Dominican context,” said Daniel Erikson, director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue, a research group in Washington. “You have a deep resentment of Haiti, and that’s driving these responses that don’t reflect favorably on the country.”

Government officials point out the strain that poor illegal immigrants from Haiti put on the Dominican Republic. The two countries share the island of Hispaniola but have vastly different levels of development.

Of course, Haitians contribute, too. They have long worked in the jobs Dominicans did not want to do, mostly cutting cane on plantations that supply sugar to the United States. The government has not just known of their presence for decades but has in some cases encouraged their arrival.

The Dominican government says the new crackdown is a security matter, aimed at wiping out fraud. And in some cases over the years, young Haitians who had crossed the border illegally claimed to have been born on the Dominican side.

But opponents accuse the government of applying its 2004 law retroactively, which they call an illegal practice that has longstanding societal animosity against Haitians at its heart.

“The racist beliefs of some are being used to twist our laws,” said Cristóbal Rodríguez Gómez, a Dominican constitutional law professor at Ibero-American University, who is acting as counsel for another descendant of Haitians who lacks documents. “This is a crime, a monstrous crime.”

In a recent report, two United Nations experts found “a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination” in the Dominican Republic, mostly affecting people of Haitian origin. The report said Haitians and their descendants face “extreme vulnerability, unjustified deportations, racial discrimination, and are denied the full enjoyment of their human rights.”

The Dominican government rejected the conclusions, portraying the relationship between the neighbors as one of solidarity.

Ángel is one of many who find their lives in limbo under the new rules. Emildo Bueno Oguis, 33, a college student who recently married an American woman, could not get his birth certificate either and therefore cannot apply to the American Embassy for residency to join her in Florida.

Mr. Oguis, whom Mr. Rodríguez represents, challenged the government’s decision in court, accusing the council of denying his rights. But his claim was rejected, despite the fact that he had previously been issued a Dominican identity card and a Dominican passport.

Confusing the matter, a lower court judge ruled in favor of another descendant of Haitian immigrants, Nuny Angra Luis, who had been denied her birth certificate. That decision was announced the same week in April as the other, diametrically opposed ruling.

Demetrio F. Francisco de Los Santos, a government lawyer, dismisses the notion that anyone’s rights are being violated. Descendants of Haitians, he argues in court documents, can simply go to the nearest Haitian consulate for their documents.

While Haitian law does grant citizenship to the offspring of Haitians, the issue is complex. Ángel’s parents would have to prove they are Haitian for him to get citizenship in Haiti, a country which he has never visited.

While some are indignant about the Dominican crackdown, Ángel seems surprisingly calm.

Before a recent practice, in which he flagged fly balls and then fired them into the infield, Ángel said his mother could not sleep after he lost the Giants contract. (“Ángel Luis Joseph is one of a number of players in the Dominican that clubs are finding do not have the proper paperwork to prove their identity or age,” the Giants said in a statement, indicating that the team had been forced to look for someone else.)

Ángel may have another shot. The Cleveland Indians have come calling, he said, visiting the humble shack that he shares with his parents and seven siblings just outside a sugarcane field.

The Indians’ offer was about a third of that put forward by the Giants, but still a windfall for a boy from a batey, the name for the workers’ camps that grow up around sugar cane plantations.

But while he awaits a ruling, he acknowledges worrying that he will see his dream disappear a second time.

“God wants me to be a baseball player — that I know,” he said. What he does not know is whether the Dominican Republic, the country he considers himself from, agrees.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/25/world/americas/25dominican.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=lacey%20and%20macoris&st=cse&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

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Charity: Aid workers raping, abusing children

Posted in CNN, Corruption, English, Photo, Rape, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews
 Stephanie Busari
For CNN 

LONDON, England (CNN) — Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said.

art.charitypics.savethechildren.jpg  

Children like this 15-year-old girl have suffered abuse at the hands of some UN soldiers and aid workers.

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Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.

After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

“It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children’s rights,” said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK. Video Watch a report on the abuse »

In the report, “No One To Turn To” a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: “My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises.

“They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, ‘No,’ but some of the girls did it and got the money.”

Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the “chronic under-reporting” of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence.

According to the charity, children told researchers they were too frightened to report the abuse, fearful that the abuser would come back to hurt them and that they would stop receiving aid from agencies, or even be punished by their family or community.

“People don’t report it because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them,” a teenage boy in southern Sudan told Save the Children.

The charity’s research was centered on Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, but Save the Children said the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children could be found in every type of humanitarian organization at all levels.

Save the Children is calling for a global watchdog to tackle the problem and said it was working with the U.N. to establish local mechanisms that will allow victims to easily report abuse.

“We are glad that Save the Children continues to shed a light on this problem. It actually follows up on a report that we did in 2002 with Save the Children. I think every population in the world has to confront this problem of exploitation and abuse of children,” said Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The United Nations has a zero-tolerance policy. It’s one that UNHCR takes very, very seriously. In refugee camps, we have implemented very strong reporting mechanisms so that refugees can come forward to report any abuses or alleged abuses.”

In 2003, U.N. Nepalese troops were accused of sexual abuse while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six soldiers were jailed.

A year later, two U.N. peacekeepers were repatriated after being accused of abuse in Burundi, and U.N. troops were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan.

Last year, the U.N. launched an investigation into sexual abuse claims in Ivory Coast.

The vast majority of aid workers were not involved in any form of abuse or exploitation but in “life-saving essential humanitarian work,” Save the Children’s Whitbread said.

But humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations “must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on,” she said.

The aid agency said it had fired three workers for breaching its codes and called on others to do the same. The three men were dismissed in the past year for having had sex with girls aged 17, which the charity said is not illegal but is cause for loss of employment.

Other UK charities said they supported Save the Children’s call for a global watchdog.

“Oxfam takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct by its aid workers. All our staff across the world are held accountable by a robust code of conduct,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam charity’s humanitarian director.

“We support Save the Children’s calls for a global watchdog. We will do all we can to stamp out this intolerable abuse.” 

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/05/27/charity.aidworkers/?imw=Y&iref=mpstoryemail

Brazilian leader’s visit to Haiti eagerly awaited

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Photo, Politics, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is coming to Haiti amid mounting pressure for him to serve as a moderating force in the Caribbean nation’s political impasse.

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.
ARIANA CUBILLOS/AP PHOTO
A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.

 

With the largest battalion of United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the streets of Haiti, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been one of the Caribbean nation’s leading defenders, championing its fledging democracy both at home and abroad. 

But as Haiti continues to drift politically, some are hoping that Lula’s arrival Wednesday will be the political nudge the troubled nation needs to get back on course.

”No one knows what he’s going to do,” a foreign diplomat said about Lula, who has received talking points in anticipation of his meeting with Haitian President René Préval.

”He knows what his colleagues from other countries are expecting,” said the diplomat, who asked for anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lula’s six-hour visit comes as Haiti is entering its seventh week without a functioning government or prime minister following food riots that left at least six people dead including a U.N. peacekeeper.

PRIME MINISTER FIRED

In its wake, Haitian senators fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis on April 12, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and triggering the crisis.

But as the crisis looms, so do frustrations and concerns in an impoverished country where Haitian and foreign observers are increasingly worried that the political impasse — coupled with the spike in global food and fuel prices — could force the country further into chaos.

”When I came into office, I thought this country was going to progress,” said Eric Jean-Jacques, president of Haiti’s lower chamber of deputies.

“But it’s the same old history that is being repeated. There is always a handicap.”

NOMINEE REJECTED

Two weeks ago, 51 of Jean-Jacques’ colleagues in the lower chamber rejected Préval’s choice to replace Alexis, international technocrat Ericq Pierre.

In frustration, both the ambassadors of Canada and the European Union went on Haitian radio warning that the longer Haiti remained without a government, the more it risks losing the gains it had made following Préval’s February 2006 presidential election.

On Sunday, Préval offered up a new nominee: political advisor and close friend, Robert ”Bob” Manuel.

But as a 53-member voting bloc in the lower chamber met on Tuesday to discuss wether they would support Manuel’s nomination, analysts remained divided over his chances.

Lula’s foreign ministry said the main purpose of his trip will be to figure out what role Brazil and the 7,060-strong U.N. Stabilization Mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, can play in the “restoration of democracy in Haiti.”

NO ADVICE

”Our job isn’t to give advice,” said a spokeswoman in Brazil’s foreign ministry. “Haiti is a sovereign country. We’re only going to see what role we can play in rebuilding the country.”

Both Préval and Lula are expected to discuss the progress of various bilateral technical programs, such as a food program where Brazil has donated $200,000 and a trash collection program in Port-au-Prince that India, Brazil, and African countries have contributed to.

Brazil and Haiti are expected to sign five different accords.

They’ll also talk about the in-flow of international donations and evaluate whether it’s been satisfactory.

Lula is trying to organize a meeting for Haiti among international donors during next week’s annual World Food Program meeting in Rome.

MORE ENGINEERS

Recently, Brazilian lawmakers approved Lula’s request to increase his 1,246-strong blue helmet soldiers in Haiti by an additional 100 engineers.

But like his Chilean and Argentine counterparts, Lula is facing domestic pressure to pull his troops out of Haiti.

”At this moment, the Brazilian position has been to renew our work with MINUSTAH. We don’t have the intention of leaving,” said the Brazilian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Rubens Barbosa, a Brazil-based consultant who served as Brazil’s ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2004, said that while he believes Brazil should end its mission in Haiti because of the costs, he sees the South American nation staying involved for the foreseeable future.

As for Lula’s ability to get Préval to listen to the international community, he said. “Lula will certainly try, but without the international community there to help, it’ll be very difficult for the country to come back.”

To read more about Haiti and South Florida’s Haitian community go to miamiherald.com/haiti/

 

 

Haïti : la situation reste tendue

Posted in Español, Hunger/Faim/Fin/Hambre, Photo, Politics, RFI - radio frances internationale, Uncategorized, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 2, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Article publié le 27/04/2008 Dernière mise à jour le 27/04/2008 à 14:51 TU

Les ministres de l’Agriculture de plusieurs pays d’Amérique centrale et des Caraïbes se sont retrouvés samedi à Managua au Nicaragua pour tenter de prendre des mesures et faire face à la crise alimentaire actuelle provoquée par la flambée des prix. 630 millions de dollars devraient être investis pour augmenter la production agricole locale. Un sommet consacré à la crise alimentaire réunira les présidents d’Amérique centrale le 7 mai. En Haïti, théâtre d’affrontements récents, la situation reste extrêmement tendue. Reportages.


Philippe Nadel)

 

A Haïti, alors que la Minustah (Mission des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti) distribue du riz, une file d’attente est constituée.
(Photo : Philippe Nadel)

Avec notre envoyé spécial à Haïti, Jean-Pierre Boris

Malgré les pressions internationales, et elles sont nombreuses, le président René Préval fait traîner la nomination d’un Premier Ministre. Depuis que, il y a deux semaines, le Sénat a renversé le gouvernement de Jacques-Edouard Alexis, le fonctionnement de l’administration haïtienne est paralysé.

En province les maires se plaignent de l’assèchement de leurs finances. « Plus rien ne se fait », se lamente le maire de Miragoane, un port à environ cent kilomètres de la capitale. Au pied de sa mairie, les travaux d’aménagement de la place centrale ont été arrêtés sine die. Pas moyen de payer les entreprises. Plus encore que dans les administrations, c’est dans les quartiers pauvres qu’on attend la décision de René Préval.

Après les émeutes du début avril, le chef de l’Etat haïtien avait annoncé une baisse des prix du riz. Cette annonce n’a pas eu d’impact réel. Si le président Préval s’obstine à jouer la montre ou nomme un chef de gouvernement dont le profil politique n’est porteur d’aucune promesse de changement, la jeunesse haïtienne, à bout de patience, se tient prête à reprendre la rue. C’est ce qu’assurent tous les milieux informés en Haïti. Certains ajoutent même que le président Préval pourrait être obligé de partir.

Dans la ville de Les Cayes

Première ville haïtienne à s’être soulevée au début du mois d’avril, Les Cayes, au sud du pays, est toujours au bord de l’insurrection.

 

http://www.rfi.fr/actufr/articles/100/article_65515.asp

Ericq Pierre nommé Premier ministre

Posted in Français, Photo, Politics, RFI - radio frances internationale, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 2, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Ericq Pierre nommé Premier ministre

par Sylvain Biville

Article publié le 28/04/2008 Dernière mise à jour le 28/04/2008 à 15:01 TU

AFP) 

Pierre Ericq, nouveau Premier ministre haïtien, sur une photo datant de mai 2006.
(Photo : AFP)

Après deux semaines de crise politique, le président haïtien René Préval a nommé Ericq Pierre, économiste à la Banque interaméricaine de développement, au poste de Premier ministre. Il doit encore être confirmé par le Parlement. Il aura la lourde tâche de rétablir la stabilité dans le pays, après les émeutes de la faim qui ont conduit, le 12 avril, au renversement de son prédécesseur, Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

La première urgence pour Ericq Pierre consiste à remettre la main sur le certificat de naissance de ses grands-parents. Avant même de solliciter la confiance du Parlement, le tout nouveau Premier ministre doit en effet présenter aux élus des pièces justificatives de sa nationalité. Pour avoir négligé cette formalité, Ericq Pierre a échoué une première fois à devenir Premier ministre. C’était en 1997. René Préval accomplissait son premier mandat présidentiel (1996-2001). Et déjà, il avait choisi cet économiste de la Banque interaméricaine de développement (BID), agronome de formation comme lui, pour diriger le gouvernement. L’absence de certificats de naissance avait à l’époque servi de prétexte au Parlement pour rejeter la nomination.

 

Onze ans après cette déconvenue, Ericq Pierre espère aujourd’hui, à 63 ans, entamer enfin une carrière politique. Cela fait presque deux décennies qu’il vit à Washington, siège de la BID. C’est précisément son profil de technocrate, qui n’est pas directement affilié à une formation partisane, qui a permis à son nom d’émerger dans les tractations menées pour trouver un successeur à Jacques-Edouard Alexis, renversé par un vote de censure du Sénat le 12 avril. Le Premier ministre sortant a payé pour les émeutes de la faim qui ont secoué le pays au début du mois. Le mouvement de colère de la population face à l’augmentation du coût de la vie a débuté le 3 avril aux Cayes, la troisième plus grande ville du pays, avant de prendre de l’ampleur pour finalement atteindre la capitale, Port-au-Prince, le 7 avril.

Un pays sous perfusion

« Nous préférons mourir par balles que de faim », clamaient les manifestants, qui ont tenté de forcer la grille du Palais présidentiel, protégé par les blindés de la Mission de stabilisation des Nations unies en Haïti (MINUSTAH), forte de 9000 casques bleus. Bilan d’une semaine de manifestions et de pillages : 7 morts, dont un policier de l’ONU nigérian. Après un long silence, le président René Préval a fini par annoncer, le 12 avril, une diminution du prix du sac de 23 kg de riz, qui est passé de 51 à 43 dollars, grâce à un effort conjoint des importateurs et du gouvernement. Mais selon l’envoyé spécial de RFI en Haïti, Jean-Pierre Boris, cette mesure, limitée à 30 jours, n’a eu qu’un impact limité sur une population qui, dans sa grande majorité, tente de survivre avec deux dollars par jour.

Haïti traverse aujourd’hui sa plus grave crise économique et sociale depuis l’élection de René Préval pour un second mandat en février 2006. Le chef de la MINUSTAH, le Tunisien Hédi Annabi, a déploré sur RFI des tentatives d’ « instrumentalisation politique » des émeutes et il a estimé que cette flambée de violence faisait faire un pas en arrière au pays, après les timides progrès enregistrés ces dernières années dans le domaine de la sécurité. Dans ce contexte très instable, l’ensemble de la communauté internationale s’est inquiétée du vide politique, depuis le renversement du gouvernement. Ces derniers jours, les émissaires se sont se sont succédés auprès du chef de l’Etat pour le presser de nommer au plus vite un nouveau Premier ministre (le Secrétaire général de l’Organisation des Etats américains, le secrétaire d’Etat français à la Coopération, le chef de la diplomatie espagnole).

Dans son choix, René Préval a dû tenir compte aussi bien des bailleurs de fonds, qui tiennent le pays sous perfusion, que de la classe politique particulièrement émiettée. En l’absence de majorité claire au Parlement, Ericq Pierre devra convaincre une coalition suffisamment large pour obtenir l’investiture. Il devra surtout donner des gages à une population de plus en plus impatiente. S’il est confirmé, une des ses premières tâches sera d’organiser au plus vite la conférence des donateurs, qui était prévue le 25 avril à Port-au-Prince et a été reportée sine die en raison de la crise politique. Sans aide extérieure massive pour faire face à la crise alimentaire, les manifestations peuvent reprendre d’un jour à l’autre.

http://www.rfi.fr/actufr/articles/100/article_65564.asp

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

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