US special envoy to Haiti resigns, says he will not be associated with 'inhumane, counter-productive' deportations of Haitians
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The U.S. special envoy for Haiti has quit his job in a blistering resignation letter saying he could not be associated with the Biden administration's decision to deport thousands of Haitian migrant to their home country, a move he called "inhumane" given the deteriorating security situation in the country.
"Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed," Daniel Foote said in the letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counter-productive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the dangers posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," he said.
Foote was named special envoy in July just weeks after the assassination of Haiti's president plunged the country into political turmoil.
The Western Hemisphere's poorest country has been grappling with an array of crises including the proliferation of powerful armed gangs, food insecurity, the spread of the coronavirus and the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in August.
The Biden administration is now preparing to nearly double the number of Haitians being deported to the Caribbean state from Texas, drawing criticism that sending thousands of cash-strapped migrants to the country is unconscionable.
Beyond the deportation decision, Foote criticized the administration's backing of Haiti's embattled interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, a move he said was reminiscent of the "puppeteering" of Haitian politics by the United States and other foreign governments over decades.
"The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner - again - is impressive," he writes in the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post. Foote's resignation was first reported by PBS.
Many in Haiti believe Henry has been able to hold on to power because of his backing by the United States. Henry is facing various attempts to oust him - particularly after a prosecutor sought his indictment in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
In a statement, a State Department spokesman confirmed the resignation and thanked Foote "for his service." Defending U.S. policy, the statement said "the United States remains committed to supporting safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout our region, and we engage with partners throughout the migratory corridor to impress upon them our shared responsibility for humane migration management, which includes enforcing migration laws and protecting vulnerable populations."
In addition, the State Department said it was working with the International Organization for Migration "to ensure that returning Haitian migrants are met at the airport and provided with immediate assistance."
That immediate assistance, IOM officials have said, is largely limited to a one-time, $100 cash award, hygiene kits and the availability of medical treatment on-site if needed. There has been no funding available for longer-term assistance, and many deportees are arriving in one of the most dangerous cities in the hemisphere - Port-au-Prince - without transportation or shelter.
The State Department's statement said "we are working to identify ways to provide more comprehensive assistance going forward."
It continued by stating that "over the long-term, the U.S. government is committed to working with the Haitian government and stakeholders across Haiti to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law, increase inclusive economic growth, and improve security and the protection of human rights in Haiti."
In Haiti, many experts have warned that the country is simply too dangerous to return deportees to, and the state too broken to offer any systemic support. Street gangs have torched homes and unleashed waves of rapes and murders on the populous.
The Haitian government, however, has had little choice but to accept the Biden administration's decision.
Pierre Esperance, executive director of Haiti's National Human Rights Defense Network, said he met with Foote on Monday in Washington.
He said Foote told him that he had not been consulted by the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince about key negotiations over the future of the Haitian government that were taking place between political actors in Haiti and the Core Group - an advisory body in Haiti composed of ambassadors from the United States, France, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the European Union, and representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Esperance also said the two men discussed the U.S. Embassy's dismissal of a political agreement for a new interim government that was hammered out by civil society groups.
Foote "was very angry about the deportations because of the situation in Haiti, because he knows about the insecurity and the gangs," Esperance said.
"Those people being returned will be in danger."
The Washington Post