US immigration officials are expected to continue deportations to Haiti on Monday, with a flight expected to have at least 100 people on board, including five who have recently tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to a rights group. the man based in the United States.
Stéphane Etienne was expelled for the first time on April 17 at the processing center of Pine Prairie Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in Louisiana.
He told Al Jazeera on a video call from the detention center that he had tested positive again on April 28 and has not been retested since.
Monday’s eviction flight also includes at least four other people who have tested positive since April 16 at the Pine Prairie detention center, according to the Haiti Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH). Boston-based human rights defender who obtained information on the subject. listing.
“I don’t know how they can do this,” said Etienne, who says he never even set foot in Haiti and was born in the United States.
The expulsion of individuals known to be infected with the virus violates US and international public health guidelines designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Jacques Boncy, director of the national laboratory of the Haitian Ministry of Public Health, said that the expulsion of those who have COVID-19 would also endanger other passengers, as well as the crew and the Haitian population.
“Everyone knows the risks,” said Dr. Laure Adrien, executive director of the Haitian Ministry of Public Health.
“We are facing a pandemic,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that “each positive case is one too many; any positive case is a risk ”.
Although Haiti has reported a relatively small number of cases – less than 200 – experts fear that the real number will be much higher, as Haitians working in the neighboring Dominican Republic, which has more than 10,000 cases, are returning home as part of foreclosure measures.
The Haitian health system is not equipped to handle an influx of cases, experts warn.
Despite the high risk of COVID-19 infection, the ECI does not generally test the virus for all detainees before their deportation. Etienne doubts that he would have been tested at all if he had not insisted that he undergo a coronavirus test. Since being tested positive for the coronavirus for the first time, he has been confined to Pine Prairie in close collaboration with at least 11 other people who have recently tested positive for the virus, he said.
The ICE did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment. The agency said in late April that it would begin testing some migrants before the deportation, but did not specify the schedule, American media reported.
According to the ICE, at least 788 detainees – including 26 at the Pine Prairie Detention Center – tested positive for COVID-19, with 1,593 tests performed. There are currently more than 29,000 people detained at ICE facilities in the United States.
“Carefree to a whole new level”
IJDH Immigration Policy Coordinator Steve Forester said that if it was unwise for the United States to deport people in the middle of a pandemic without at least testing them to make sure that they are not carriers of the virus, the expulsion flight planned for Monday “takes an imprudent attitude in a whole new level”.
“The fact that the United States knowingly sends HIV-positive people to Haiti is a huge disrespect for Haiti and for Haitians,” he told Al Jazeera, adding, however, “This is consistent with [US President Donald] Trump’s previous statements and actions. “
How many other people are deporting who tested positive?
Steve Forester, IJDH
The United States has been accused of expelling the virus, with more than 100 Guatemalans deported positive, according to Guatemalan officials. According to the Haitian Ministry of Public Health, at least three people expelled by the United States on April 7 have tested positive for the coronavirus upon their return to Haiti. The United States has deported individuals to at least nine other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean since February, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, despite US and international guidelines that focus on the risks that travel international reports for the spread of coronavirus.
“How many other people are deporting who tested positive? Asked Forester.