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Haiti must repatriate its citizens who want to return
Friday, June 04, 2004
Mr Gerard Latortue, the installed prime minister of Haiti, has been signalling his wish to improve relations with Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
Mr Latortue, we expect, will be saying, to anyone who will listen, that with Jean-Bertrand Aristide having left Jamaica and the Caribbean the objective conditions have changed for the better. So he will soon be talking about sending an ambassador back to Kingston.
Mr Latortue will also be attempting to paint a picture of emerging stability in Haiti, and to suggest - his diplomatic and political gaffes notwithstanding - that his government is on track.
Unfortunately, however, there seems to be a jinx or hex on Mr Latortue and his admini
stration. When he is not cavorting with convicted drug runners and human rights abusers and hailing them freedom fighters and heroes, he is busy pushing his diplomatic size 10s into his mouth. Or his administration is getting itself into its own way.
So, at a time when Mr Latortue wants to mend fences, or says he does, his administration is antagonising its second closest neighbour and Caricom's most influential political entity. Which, of course, is Jamaica.
This week, Jamaica had reason to publicly complain that the Haitian authorities seem disinterested in repatriating 130 of their citizens who fled their country in the period leading up to, and in the aftermath of, the coup d'etat against Mr Aristide.
Nearly 600 Haitians, seeking to escape the violence and instability in their country, braved the seas in small, and sometimes unsafe boats to reach Jamaica. Whatever the reason, one group now wants to return home.
Jamaica has been attempting to accommodate them. Indeed, Jamaica
has good reason for this. After all, the country's limited resources are under severe pressure from hosting the Haitian refugees.
But in any event, displaced people have a right of return to their country of citizenship. Jamaica, in this regard, has been working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The Haitian authorities, we have been told, are dragging their feet. Not only have they not put arrangements in place to welcome the group which should have returned home this week they, cynically it seems, have asked Kingston for proof of the nationalities of the people who want to return.
If Mr Latortue is serious about mending fences, genuinely wants good relations with the region and wants to have his country return to a place in Caricom, then he and his administration must get their act together.
Mr Latortue must see to it that Haiti fulfills its international obligations and repatriates its citizens.
But even more than its obligations to the international community, Mr Latortue must ensure that Haiti meets the most basic of guarantees to the Haitian people - their right of belonging. Their citizenship.
If the Latortue regime plays around, as it appears to be doing, it won't be able to have the region's trust. And this will make it even more difficult for it to have a place in Caricom.