(New York) June 21, 2011 — The United Nations is appealing to governments to suspend all involuntary returns to Haiti, given the precarious conditions that continue to persist in the Caribbean nation 18 months after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
“Despite the recent elections and ongoing reconstruction efforts, Haiti, weakened by the earthquake, cannot yet ensure adequate protection or care especially for some vulnerable groups in case of return,” Adrian Edwards, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
An estimated 680,000 people are still displaced within Haiti, living in over 1,000 tented camps in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other earthquake-affected areas. An unknown number remains outside the country.
Given the current situation in Haiti, UNHCR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are urging governments to renew, on humanitarian grounds, residence permits and other mechanisms that have allowed Haitians to remain outside their country.
“The appeal calls on governments to assess Haitian cases on an individual basis and to pay special consideration and refrain from returning to Haiti persons with special protection needs, and to prevent situations where returns can lead to family separation,” said Mr. Edwards.
Michel Martelly was sworn in as the new President of Haiti in May after he won the run-off round of polls earlier this year. The UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSTAH) said at the time that his inauguration carried with it “all the hopes of change for the people of Haiti: hopes for reconstruction, progress, stability, social peace, rule of law [and] development.”
The mission called on Mr. Martelly, his Government, Haiti’s politicians, civil society groups and wider citizenry to “make this historic moment their rallying point for sealing a new political, economic and social pact to rebuild together a new Haiti.”