Political chaos, the coronavirus and natural disasters have caused thousands of people to flee Haiti. Many now hope for a better life in the United States.
So far, more than 2,200 people have lost their lives in the natural disaster that struck Haiti on August 14. The country was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
More than 100,000 homes and around 900 schools have been destroyed.
Just over a month after the earthquake, the Caribbean island nation is now on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. 650,000 people, including 26,000 children, remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
This was stated by a UN secretary of the AP news agency on Thursday.
As if that were not enough: at the same time, there is political chaos in the country.
The background is the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. The 53-year-old president was shot dead by unknown perpetrators, who entered his own residence.
On Tuesday this week, current Prime Minister Ariel Henry was charged with aiding and inciting the assassination of the president.
The chaotic situation has sent thousands of Haitians into exile in recent months.
Several thousand sleep under a bridge
Many of them are now trying to cross the border into the United States. Over the past week, thousands of refugees have gathered in a temporary camp near Del Rio, Texas, on the US-Mexico border.
Several thousand people now sleep under a bridge that separates the two countries. The US authorities describe the situation as very serious. They have reinforced staff at the border crossing, while the border patrol distributes water, towels and blankets to the refugees, according to Reuters.
But they are waiting, the refugees have access to 22 mobile toilets. Most of the food they eat is bought in Mexico and transported across the Rio Grande to the United States. Traffic comes and goes between the two countries.
The refugee networks in Del Rio are characterized by floodlights, surveillance cameras, and armed border guards.
Local authorities estimate that the camp is currently home to 12,000 people and more are expected in the coming days.
Most come from Haiti, but also people from countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua gather at the camp.
Temporary camps and large piles of garbage are also reported in the border area. Local authorities also claim that at least two women must have given birth in the camp, according to AP.
Jon Anfinsen, head of border control in the Del Rio area, calls the situation a “logistical nightmare.”
– We strive to bring resources from all over the country. But they don’t come here right away. Right now we’re just trying to keep our heads above the water, he says. The Washington Post.
Anfinsen informs the newspaper that they prioritize helping families with children.
Del Río Mayor Bruno Lazono (D) describes the camp as a “favela that has been established overnight, full of people in need.”
Challenge for Biden
The acute situation at the border also creates headaches for the Biden administration. When Biden took office in January, he advocated a more open and “humane” approach to refugee policy than his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Although Biden made several changes to immigration policy early in his presidency, he continued with Trump’s pandemic legal measures that allowed US authorities to return most of the refugees who were detained at the border with their home countries.
The wave of refugees along the border has not gone unnoticed by political opponents. Republican politician Ted Cruz, who represents Texas in the Senate, is among those who criticize the president.
From 55 to 7580
The camp is not just full of those affected by the August earthquake. Many of the Haitians now in Del Rio left their homeland after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
People left Haiti in search of job opportunities in South America before the Rio Olympics in 2016. When those opportunities no longer existed, many began the dangerous journey to a better life in the United States.
It feels now.
US authorities detained Haitians crossing the border up to 7,580 times in August. By comparison, 55 people were arrested the same month last year.
There has also been a large increase in refugees from Ecuador, Venezuela, and other nations that have not traditionally contributed to the influx of refugees into the United States to any significant degree, AP writes.
The Biden administration now plans to move more refugees to other parts of the border, where demand is not as great as in Del Rio. This is to speed up the processing of refugees.
Additionally, flights will begin on Monday to transport Haitians back to their home country. The Biden administration hopes this will prevent more refugees from trying to cross the border.