United States. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Haitian asylum seekers are deeply rooted in anti-Black racism

United States authorities have subjected Haitian asylum seekers to arbitrary arrest and humiliating ill-treatment amounting to racially-motivated torture, Amnesty International said September 22 in its new report titled “They Didn’t Treat Us Like Human Beings” Torture and Other Racial and Migration-Related Abuse Against Haitians Seeking Refuge in the United States.

These human rights abuses, along with the mass deportations under Title 42, are the latest episode in a long tradition rooted in systemic anti-Black discrimination, arrests, exclusion and measures to deter Haitians from seeking refuge in the United States.

“A year ago, the government of Joe Biden condemned the fact that border guards violently dispersed Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas. Despite this, US authorities continued to restrict these people’s right to seek international protection at the border with Mexico, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“They also continued to rekindle the demons of slavery by putting ankle shackles on black Haitians and handcuffing them on board flights during their expulsion from the country, thus inflicting on these people additional psychological suffering constituting acts of torture under international human rights law. Our research has provided us with ample evidence that the United States immigration system is deeply marked by systemic racism. »

The report shows that successive United States governments have tried to deter Haitians from seeking asylum in the United States by enforcing various policies designed to intercept, arrest and return them to their country. ; these policies began to be put in place in the 1970s and they continue today with Title 42.

A year ago, the government of Joe Biden condemned the fact that border guards violently dispersed Haitian people seeking asylum in Del Rio, Texas. Despite this, United States authorities continued to restrict the right of these individuals to seek international protection at the border with Mexico.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Director for the Americas at Amnesty International

Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization playing a leading role in exposing the mistreatment of Haitians by United States authorities, said, “In September of last year , the world was horrified to discover images, widely circulated in the media, showing a Border Patrol agent using his reins to whip Mirard Joseph, one of approximately 15,000 Haitians seeking protection in Del Rio, Texas. These horrific facts, however, represent only the tip of the iceberg, because for decades, Haitians who seek safety in the United States have been subjected to ill-treatment aimed at deterring them. We hope that the recommendations made in the report will spark a movement within the United States authorities to dismantle the policy of discrimination and torture based on “race” to which Haitians and other black migrants are often submitted as part of the United States immigration system. »

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The 24 people Amnesty International interviewed in Haiti for this report were apparently deported under Title 42 between September 2021 and January 2022. None had the opportunity to benefit from an individual review of their situation by the services. asylum (“fear-based screenings”) before being sent back to Haiti. According to the testimonies collected, agents of the United States even arrested babies whose youngest were only nine and 14 days old, and in several cases they separated them from their parents. These are violations of international law. Haitian interviewees also said that they had not had access to interpreters or legal representation, or obtained information about their place of detention and the reasons for which they were detained, which is constitutive of arbitrary detention.

Additionally, none of those interviewed by Amnesty International said they had been tested for Covid-19 or offered a vaccination while in detention or prior to their deportation. Many have also not been given masks or given the opportunity to practice physical distancing from others, undermining claims that Title 42 evictions are meant to prevent the spread of Covid. -19.

The mistreatment of Haitians in detention centers in the United States – including insufficient access to food, medical care, information, and interpreters and lawyers – has had very heavy cumulative effects on those interviewed for the purposes of this report, because upon arrival in the United States they had already experienced human rights violations during their trip, including anti-Black racism.

The 24 Haitians interviewed by Amnesty International all said they were flown back to Haiti in handcuffs and shackles, which caused them severe psychological harm because of the link associating this treatment with slavery and delinquency. Amnesty International’s assessment of the facts based on the testimonies it has collected indicate that this constitutes torture motivated by “race” and immigration status under international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and requires States to protect people from all acts of torture, including those motivated by particular factors such as “race”, immigration status and nationality.

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The historical context of discrimination against black people

Our research is framed within the context of historical enslavement of people of African descent and current systemic racism that takes various forms. As the evidence presented in the report shows, the mistreatment of Haitians is widespread and frequent, and has occurred throughout history at different times and in different places, highlighting long-standing systemic racial discrimination. date in the immigration system, which aims to punish these people and deter them from seeking asylum in the United States.

We hope that the recommendations made in the report will spark a movement within the United States authorities to dismantle the policy of discrimination and torture based on “race” to which Haitians and other black migrants are often submitted by the United States immigration system

Nicole Phillips, Legal Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance

Amnesty International calls on all states to end systemic racial discrimination and recognize that racism is rooted in structures and practices that emerged with colonialism and slavery. United States authorities must take the necessary steps to reform all institutions, laws, and policies that foster harmful racial and nationality biases. The use of Title 42 is a perfect illustration of this problem: it bypasses laws that protect people from deportation when it puts them at risk, and reinforces dangerous racial biases that lead to human rights abuses.

Amnesty International has examined and gathered compelling evidence that anti-Black racism is deeply embedded in the US immigration system, but US authorities appear unwilling to actively gather data on racial discrimination and bias as required by international human rights standards.

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Reiterating calls made to the government of Joe Biden by more than 100 members of Congress in February 2022, Amnesty International calls on the United States government to commit to removing anti-Black policies and to comprehensively examining how the United States immigration system treats black people seeking protection.