US President Barack Obama [official website] has been urged to stop deportations to Haiti on humanitarian grounds. More than 3,000 Americans signed a letter [text, PDF] sent to the president on Thursday, claiming that deportees are immediately imprisoned upon return to Haiti and can suffer illness-related deaths as a result of the unsanitary and inhumane conditions of the jails. Since the earthquake in January 2010, Haiti has suffered from a cholera epidemic [CDC backgrounder] resulting in more than 5,300 deaths, adding to the conditions [CCR press release] inmates endure without guarantee of medicine, food or water. In May, Obama extended [JURIST report] the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) [official website] program to prevent Haitians with only one misdemeanor conviction from being immediately deported, but deportations continue. Though many of the deportees have been convicted of serious crimes, advocates urge that deporting hundreds of people back to a country strewn with tent cities plagued with disease and violence over recent elections is too great of a punishment [Florida Times-Union article]. The petition states:
As international aid agencies end their service contracts, over a million people remain homeless in tent camps and face chronic hunger, threats of eviction, and lack of essentials such as water and medical care. ... No one should be deported to Haiti during this humanitarian crisis. ... Please live up to your pledge to uphold human rights and halt these inhumane and cruel deportations to Haiti.The letter came a day after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] ordered Obama to halt the deportations, following up on a similar order [press release] from February.
In April, the US State Department released [JURIST report] its 2010 Country Report on Human Rights Practices [materials], reporting that Haiti [materials] has faced significant human rights abuses, following the breakdown of government control [JURIST report] after the 2010 earthquake. On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused at least 50,000 deaths and massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The most devastated city was the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50 percent of buildings [statement] have been destroyed or damaged, including the country's presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters and the country's main prison [JURIST report].