From Montreal to Haiti: COVID-19 & Haitian refugees

08 May 2020|JRS-Canada

Summer 2017: Hundreds of Haitian refugees arrived in Upstate New York to enter Canada illegally. They fear deportation from the United States: they passed through Roxham Road.

Many of these refugees have settled in Montreal. As reported today by the CBC 1 , it is from this group that several attendants and orderlies are recruited for care centres for the elderly. Spring 2020 : Three years after their arrival in Canada, in addition to seeing the majority of their asylum applications refused, these people are at the heart of the hot spots in the spread of the coronavirus. Not to mention the fact that many of them are infected. The Concertation haïtienne pour les (Haitian group for the migrants) is asking the Canadian and Quebec premiers to implement a special immigration program for these “guardian angels”.

Meanwhile, the 46,000 Haitian refugees still in the United States can have their temporary protection status cancelled by the Trump administration (the case is before the courts). COVID-19 has increased the pressure on refugees and asylum seekers. Not only are the borders closed, but U.S. officials are organizing flights for migrants and asylum seekers without even checking their medical conditions beforehand. On May 6th, Doctors without Borders stated: “Despite the risk of contagion and the implications for people’s health, the United States has continued to organize flights to deport migrants and asylum seekers.2

However, Haiti is currently going through an extremely difficult period in terms of health because of the pandemic, which poses a serious threat to the health of the world’s population. While the Dominican Republic has become the 4th most affected country in Latin America by the coronavirus (8800 cases and 360 deaths), the Haitian authorities are announcing 108 cases and 12 deaths: the Minister of Public Health believes that “not all cases were reported, mainly due to the current social and health conditions”.3

Finally, for many Haitians, this disease remains something superfluous or even propaganda because the state authorities are not transparent, and some come to believe that there are no cases of coronavirus in Haiti, claiming that the government just wants help from the international community to continue squandering funds intended to fight the spread of Covid-19 in Haiti.

To say the least, for the Haitian people and their diaspora, the situation is far from easy.

1 Quebec relies on hundreds of asylum seekers in long-term care’s battle against COVID-19

2 MSF demands for the end of deportationsfrom US to Latin America and the Caribbean

3 The Haitians think Covid-19 is a “political thing”.