Haiti and humanitarian protection: the US should give temporary protection to the most vulnerable groups

The horrible tragedy that struck Haiti a few days ago has shocked the world, due to the immense scale of the damages and human suffering the earthquake caused. Aid efforts are slowly coming into place, but alarming reports of criminal gangs killing and roaming the streets, as well as the lack of water, food and adequate protection is coming through the news wires every minute.


Taking a minute to reflect on this disaster – there is one issue that will emerge soon, if it hasn’t already: where shall all the homeless survivors, estimated to around 3 million people, live in the time to come?

From what I gather, this discussion has begun, as aid organisations and countries around the world have started pouring in money and resources for the immediate disaster relief. This will probably include suplying the basics of human subsistence: medicines, food, water and clothes. Temporary camps will probably also be set up around Haiti and in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Many countries have temporarily halted the process of extraditing Haitian irregular (‘illegal’) migrants from their country, most notably the US and France. The US granted them temporary protection status for a limited period of up to 12-18 months. But this will probably be far from adequate, as the reconstruction process will take years, if not decades.

When hurricane Mitch struck Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999, millions of people were displaced in the region. Some of those people reached the border of the US and were granted temporary protection, as it was considered too unsafe to send them back home. The US Government used this justification:

Extension is warranted because there continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in Honduras resulting from Hurricane Mitch and Honduras remains unable, temporarily, to adequately handle the return of its nationals, as required for TPS designations based on environmental disasters (‘Extension of the designation of Honduras for Temporary Protected Status; Automatic Extension’ from Department of Homeland Security. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2007))

It could easily be argued that developed countries around the world, especially the US, should evacuate the weakest groups (injured, women and children) from Haiti as soon as possible in order to alleviate them from further suffering. The aid workers will have their hands full taking care of all the other victims of the earthquake. Those evacuated could receive a temporary protection status and would be able to move back to Haiti once there are adequate facilities such as housing, schools and hospitals in place. The EU on its side could activate the dormant Temporary Protection Directive, which establishes temporary protection during ‘mass influxes’ of certain displaced persons.

What do you think?

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