“When children and families are returned without adequate protection, they find themselves even more vulnerable to violence, poverty and displacement – factors that pushed them to migrate in the first place,” said Executive Director Henrietta Fore .
A stony road
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has long been plagued by poverty, civil unrest, and political and economic instability.
Children should never be returned to situations where their safety and basic well-being are threatened – head of UNICEF
Last month, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked the country, devastating lives, destroying markets, roads and irrigation systems. And just days after the seismic event, Tropical Storm Grace intensified the suffering with additional damage.
Wanting to ensure a better life, thousands of Haitians – many of whom have lived outside their home countries for years – fled to Mexico in the hope of entering the United States.
They were faced with a show of force from border officials in Texas, with scenes broadcast around the world of mounted officers violently surrounding migrants, evoking tactics widely used in the slave-era South. .
On Thursday morning, the US special envoy for Haiti resigned to protest the expulsion of Haitian migrants by plane from the border area, a process that began last weekend, after more than 13,000 migrants gathered and have set up their camp, under a bridge.
UNICEF urged the authorities to “refrain from any use of force at borders, to keep families together and to properly assess the protection needs of migrants before any return decision”.
“Children should never be returned to situations where their safety and basic well-being are threatened», Declared the UN agency.
Initial assessments in Mexico and Haiti suggest that many children under the age of 10 were either born outside Haiti or have lived most of their lives in another country.
Focusing on Haitian migrant families encamped in the border town of Del Rio in southwest Texas, UNICEF estimated that around 40% were children who “live in overcrowded and inadequate conditions and are in need of support.” basic humanitarian support ”.
Reports have indicated that more than 1,400 Haitians have been expelled from the region since the start of the deportations.
Children must “pass it all”
Meanwhile, UNICEF continues to work to ensure children and families receive basic assistance, including in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, where it will help with child protection services and provide clean water. , hygiene kits, portable toilets and hand washing stations.
In Haiti, the agency coordinates with national authorities and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide repatriated children with psychosocial support, protection services and school supplies.
But more support is needed to provide these families with the life-saving help they need.
“The best interests of the children must take precedence over all other considerations”, Underlined the head of UNICEF.