Mon | Nov 29, 2021

US official in Haiti apologises for treatment of migrants

Published:Friday | October 1, 2021 | 2:21 PM
Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, October 1, 2021. US officials have meetings planned with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Foreign Minister Claude Joseph to discuss future elections, migration, security, and US support. National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Sebastian Gonzalez is pictured on right. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A top United States official on Friday apologised for how Haitian migrants were treated along the US-Mexico border, saying it's not how border officials or the Department of Homeland Security behave.

The comments from Juan Gonzalez, the US National Security Council's senior director for the Western Hemisphere, came during a two-day official visit to Haiti to talk with local leaders about migration and other issues.

“I want to say that it was an injustice, that it was wrong,” he said.

“The proud people of Haiti and any migrant deserve to be treated with dignity.”

The U.S. government recently came under fire for its treatment of Haitian migrants, with images showing men on horseback, corralling Haitian asylum seekers.

Gonzalez was visiting with Brian Nichols, US assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, amid ongoing expulsions of Haitians from the US to their homeland.

Since September 19, the US has expelled some 4,600 Haitian migrants from Del Rio, Texas on 43 flights, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Gonzalez said the gathering of migrants along the border is a public health emergency and warned those who are thinking of leaving not to risk their lives.

“The danger is too great,” he said.

Gonzalez and Nichols previously met with Haitian Americans and Cuban Americans in Miami on Wednesday and with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, members of the civil society and political leaders in Haiti on Thursday to talk about migration, public safety, the pandemic and efforts to help those affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country's southern region in mid-August.

Nichols said that during their visit, they heard many people talk about the challenges that Haiti faces, noting that there's a “surprising” amount of agreement on potential solutions.

“There is no solution that will work for Haiti and its people that will be imposed from the outside,” he said, referring to recent criticism about the involvement of the US and other countries in Haitian affairs as it tries to recover from the earthquake and from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private home amid a spike in gang violence.

“However, we in the United States are committed to providing the Haitian people the support they need to succeed and implement their own vision.”

Nichols said the conversation with the prime minister was constructive, adding that the US is encouraging consensus and a holistic vision.

“The future of Haiti depends on its own people,” he said.

“The United States is committed to working with the people of Haiti to support as they work to bring prosperity and security back to their country.”

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