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Haitian Ambassador Says Deportees Are A Big Part Of Haitian Crime. Expats Dispute The Claim

Dieu Nalio Chery
Haitian gang members wave machetes at a police station in Port-au-Prince last year.

Last week, WLRN aired a report on efforts to aid Haitian deportees struggling in Haiti. Afterward, we asked Haiti’s Ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, if the U.S. should continue deporting Haitians back to Haiti given its economic and public security collapse.

Edmond suggested the deportations should stop for that reason. But then he offered another reason: he claimed Haitians deported to Haiti because of criminal convictions in the U.S. become a big part of Haiti’s rampant violent crime problem today.

“Most of them are involved in gangs," Edmond said. "And that’s why the battle against [Haiti's] gangs [is] so difficult — because these are expert gangsters.”

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Edmond did admit the Haitian government has few resources to aid those deportees once they arrive in Haiti. But his assertion that criminal deportees are a large contributor to Haiti’s violent crime crisis — including its terrifying wave of ransom kidnappings — is largely and often angrily refuted by the Haitian expat community.

“That’s a false narrative that’s been used by the Haitian government for decades," said Michelle Karshan, executive director of Alternative Chance, a nonprofit that aids criminal deportees in Haiti.

"It’s a way to scapegoat all their problems and attribute them to criminal deportees — although there’s no proof. It’s also right now a way for the Haitian government to distance itself from recent human rights reports that connect massacres and criminal activity to the Haitian government,” she said.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse's government has in fact been rebuked by international human rights groups and the United Nations for condoning police brutality and criminality — and for ignoring widespread allegations of police involvement in the nation's often deadly kidnapping surge.

A U.N. report accuses Haitian security forces of involvement in a 2018 gang massacre that killed at least 26 people in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline.

Haiti has seen numerous street protests in recent years calling for Moïse to resign because of his government's inability to stem the violent crime.

As for criminal deportees, Karshan concedes some do turn to crime after arriving in Haiti because they have no other support systems there. That's especially true of those who came to the U.S. as small children and were unfamiliar with Haiti when they were deported back — and had little if any family there to receive them.

But she points out they've often proven to be an asset there. After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, she says, many criminal deportees were thanked by the government for helping the rescue and recovery effort as translators for international aid groups.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.