Above: Haiti’s northwest coast (UN Photo)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The United Nation’s International Organization for Migration has received $100,000 from the United States Department of State for a programme that discourages “dangerous irregular migration” from Haiti’s northwestern coast.
The programme, which first started in 2009, focused on two main aims: providing direct assistance to migrants intercepted at sea and returned to Haiti, and strengthening the capacity of Haiti’s government to address irregular migration in certain communities in the northwestern coast.
Haiti’s northwestern coast is among the most impoverished areas of the country, with significant levels of irregular migration by boat to countries including the Bahamas, Cuba, the Turks and Caicos and the United States.
Last year, the United Nations expressed “concern” over what it said were hundreds of deaths occurring each year due to irregular migration, though no firm data exists.
The IOM said the first phase of the programme, which also included income generation activities and support for local business, benefited around 22,000 people.
More than 4,900 returnees received direct assistance packages.
The IOM has also used a somewhat unconventional approach to warn of the dangers of migration: a radio soap opera and a Creole-language comic, Chimen Lakay (“the way home).
“The project has had a very positive economic impact in the targeted region and has contributed to a considerable reduction of irregular and dangerous departures by sea; 93 per cent of returnees have told IOM that if they could find a job or have access to more opportunities, they would never again risk their lives at sea,” said IOM Programme Manager Drazan Rozic.
A second phase, which was implemented in 2012 and early 2013, provided 800 returned migrants with assistance packages.
“Although the third phase will provide much needed direct assistance to returnees, a critical element, which is providing income generation support to these coastal communities, did not receive funding,” Rozic said. ” IOM and its government partners remain committed to addressing the root causes of irregular migration by supporting returnees to reintegrate into their communities, but without funding for these activities residents will continue to risk their lives at sea in hopes of finding better opportunities for their families.”