“Who wouldn’t want to go out? »: Migrants deported to Haiti face the challenge of survival | Haiti

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When Reynold Joseph was deported from the United States to Haiti after five years in South America, he was unprepared for the gravity of things in his homeland.

Outside a dilapidated guesthouse near downtown Port-au-Prince, where he and a dozen other deportees are staying, goats grazed on burning garbage piles, while the Drivers honked and cursed in a queue for gasoline that meandered around the block. Each night, Joseph’s three-year-old son fidgets in the sweltering heat and bursts of gunfire echo in the distance.

“It’s no secret that Haiti is poor and dangerous,” said Joseph, who, along with thousands of his compatriots, was arrested in South Texas last month before being shackled and transported by plane to Port-au-Prince. “But I didn’t know it had gotten that bad.”

It was the first time he had returned to the country after five years in Chile with his wife. For their son, a Chilean citizen born in Santiago, it was his first visit to the country.

There is a Haitian proverb, beyond the mountains there are mountains, which loosely means that after one problem comes another, and in Port-au-Prince, that saying is a heartbreaking reality.

Violent gangs rule the streets, kidnapping rich and poor residents for ransom every day, while fuel and basic commodity shortages are common and utilities from traffic lights to sewage systems are virtually non-existent. When President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home on July 7 in still murky circumstances, the situation only worsened. An earthquake the following month added to Haiti’s misery, killing at least 2,200 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

People displaced by gang violence occupy a school turned into a long-term shelter in Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd / AP

The overlapping calamities have led the United States to advise its embassy staff to stay within the compound and its citizens to avoid all travel to the country. After the earthquake, the Biden administration extended “temporary protection statusSo that thousands of Haitian migrants and refugees already in the United States live and work legally. Weeks later, thousands of desperate Haitians who had been detained at the Texas border were deported.

Many of them were returning to a country they had not seen in years, and many of these deportees were already planning another escape. Some, who had already spent years in Brazil or Chile, plan to try their luck in South America again.

But for many, the immediate challenge is survival.

“Of course we want to go back, but we’ve spent all our savings trying to get into the United States,” said Joseph, speaking in Spanish, which he learned while working as a builder in the capital of the United States. Chile, Santiago. “So it’s our life now, while we’re saving up to try to get out. “

Many recent deportees fled Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake that flattened much of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 and plunging the country into a spiral of instability from which it has never recovered. still not delivered.

Since then, gang violence in Haiti has left the country on the brink of civil war. At least 165 gangs – many with tacit political backing and backing – operate in the country, organizing extortion rackets, kidnappings for ransom and monitoring the local drug and arms trade. Many gang leaders have ties to the country’s fragile and corrupt police forces; the leader of the most powerful is a former policeman.

“There are areas where the police will not go, where it is a war zone like Vietnam or Afghanistan,” said Luis Henry Mars, who works on peacebuilding projects in areas controlled by gangs. “Gangs are the state in these neighborhoods.

A gang member, wearing a balaclava and holding a gun, poses for a photo in the Portail Léogâne neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
A gang member, wearing a balaclava and holding a gun, poses for a photo in the Portail Léogâne neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd / AP

In few places the brutal gang domination is felt more than in Martissant, one of Port-au-Prince’s most notorious neighborhoods, which looks quite like an urban war zone.

Buildings still standing are riddled with bullet holes, including a police station and hospital once run by Médecins Sans Frontières, which closed in June after stray bullets hit its walls. Shops and shacks have been looted and razed. A few streets away, the markets are full of shops, but here, the few inhabitants who remain do not dare to leave their homes and the streets are a barren wasteland.

The main road, which connects the capital to the country’s southern peninsula, is barely paved and littered with rubbish, some of which burn while smoldering, large embers. When it rains, the latrines are flooded, filling the potholes with sewage. Up the hills that lead to hundreds of homes, the burnt tires and chassis of cars block the roads, ensuring that anyone who tries to pass can be checked or kidnapped for ransom.

Motorists immediately stepped on the accelerator as they entered Martissant. Trucks carrying food and supplies to survivors of the recent earthquake in the south are routinely turned back at hastily erected roadblocks by masked gunmen.

On Monday, the road was blocked, gang members exchanged gunfire and a suburban bus was shot down, leaving at least four injured.

“The only way to pass is to have local connections and to be able to negotiate the passage,” said a Haitian aid worker who grew up in Martissant.

A street in Martissant, a neighborhood controlled by armed bands, in Port-au-Prince.
A street in Martissant, a neighborhood controlled by armed bands, in Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Orlando Barria / EPA

Thousands of Martissant residents evacuated the neighborhood in June because of the violence and are now living as refugees in a sports center that has been turned into a refuge just one kilometer from their home.

Coriolande Auguste fled her home after it was broken into and burnt down by gangs, and she sent her little girl to live with her mother in the southern town of Les Cayes. The August earthquake damaged their home there, leaving Augustus’ elderly mother and young daughter also homeless. The 2010 earthquake killed two uncles and his older sister, while paralyzing his father and leaving Auguste the sole breadwinner.

Today, Augustus relies on handouts to survive, often going days without eating and sleeping on a thin treadmill on the hard floor of the overcrowded gymnasium. More than a dozen women at the shelter are pregnant and there are nearly 350 toddlers.

A man runs to safety as he crosses a barricaded street in the gang-controlled Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
A man runs to safety as he crosses a barricaded street in the gang-controlled Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd / AP

“Once upon a time, we were living perfectly well, but all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. So we ran – I grabbed a backpack and filled it with the first clothes I could get, ”she said, as a line of food, provided by an organization international charity, turned into heckling. “But my neighborhood is a ghost town, and the only ones out there are the crooks.”

Like so many Haitians, Auguste wants to start a new life in a safer and more stable country, but has neither the funds nor the papers to do so.

“Who wouldn’t want to get out of it?” “She asked as she was a boy in a ripped T-shirt and cycling on a run-down athletics track inside the abandoned compound. since it was partially destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. “But I have no money to eat, let alone a plane ticket.”


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