US suspends deportations of Haitians after Hurricane Matthew

This is the second time a humanitarian disaster has prompted America to change its policy towards immigrants from the Caribbean nation.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Mexico reported a surge in Haitian immigrants seeking to enter the US even before Hurricane Matthew.

The United States announced it has suspended the deportation of undocumented Haitians after Hurricane Matthew killed over 1,000 people and left survivors at risk of famine and cholera in the Caribbean nation.

The US slowed down the deportation of Haitians once before, when the 2010 earthquake killed 220,000 people. In September, the US Department of Homeland Security announced it would resume deportations according to "standard practice". However, after Hurricane Matthew, the government said on Tuesday it was going to temporarily reverse its approach on humanitarian grounds, 

"We will have to deal with that situation, address it, be sympathetic to the plight of the people of Haiti as a result of the hurricane,"  Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said at an event in Mexico City. 

"But after that condition has been addressed, we intend to resume the policy change," he said, without specifying a time frame.

Children sleep on metal sheets in a partially destroyed school after a powerful hurricane slammed into Haiti last week. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed.

Mexico saw a rise in Haitian immigrants seeking to enter the US even before Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of Haitians are currently massed in Mexican border towns. Mexico says 300 more arrive in the country every day. The numbers have overwhelmed immigration authorities.

Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said his government was implementing policies to give "the necessary humane conditions" to the Haitians stuck in Mexico. Chong said that he expects the influx of Haitians to rise due to the hurricane.

Mexican officials asked Johnson to ensure that the US authorities speed up processing Haitian migrants.

TRTWorld and agencies