PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The United States is preparing to nearly double the number of Haitians being deported to this Caribbean state from Texas starting Wednesday, raising alarm that thousands of cash-strapped migrants will add a new dimension to the humanitarian crisis in a country torn apart by violence, natural disaster and political strife.

The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation is already dealing with a convergence of crises – including the aftermath of a presidential assassination, a deadly earthquake, worsening food insecurity and rising social anarchy amid a grab for territory by gang warlords. So limited are resources to aid returning deportees – some of whom are coming back to their country for the first time in years – that they are essentially leaving the airport with little more than a hot meal, basic hygiene kits, a medical assessment and a small cash handout, setting out without the promise of transportation or shelter.

Several deportees – including one who arrived Monday and five others who arrived Tuesday – said they and “many” other deportees had been shackled during transit, including on flights, with one describing it as being chained “like a slave.”

On Sunday and Monday, several hundred migrants per day arrived on up to three flights to Port-au-Prince, with four flights scheduled for Tuesday. International agencies have been told that the United States will begin ramping up to “six to seven” flights daily, to Port-au-Prince as well as Haiti’s second-largest city, Cap-Haïtien, starting Wednesday.

More about Haitians at the U.S. border

“We’re talking about potentially up to 1,000 people per day,” said Giuseppe Loprete, Haiti mission chief for the International Organization for Migration. “This is our understanding. This is our challenge.”


A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said the department could not confirm the flight plans, citing operational and security factors.

However, one U.S. official confirmed that the flights would increase to six or seven per day, split between the two Haitian cities. The official was not authorized to discuss the plan and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, head of Haiti’s migration office, said the government did not “have the means” to provide housing or other assistance for so many new arrivals.

“The precarity and the insecurity will increase exponentially,” he said. “It’s one crisis too many.”

Bonheur Delva said that he had “personally” called for a moratorium to the flights but that he was unaware whether Haiti’s interim government had made any official request. Haiti’s embattled interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, is clinging to power, holding on in part because of his backing from the United States.

Bonheur Delva suggested Henry, who did not respond to a request for comment, was in no position ask the Americans to halt the flights, even though Haiti cannot cope with the escalating numbers of returnees.


“We do not see much from his office,” Bonheur Delva said of the prime minister. “We need to understand that this is a relationship between a big and a small country.”

Amid a growing outcry from some Democrats – particularly after widely published images on Monday of mounted Border Patrol agents attempting to grab migrants and using their horses to push them back toward Mexico – the administration has sought to defend the mass deportations.

The State Department said Monday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Henry about ”cooperation to repatriate Haitian migrants on the Southern border of the United States” and had shared his appreciation with the Haiti government “for assisting to repatriate Haitian citizens safely and expeditiously.”

“The United States and Haiti share a mutual concern for the safety of Haitian citizens and discussed the dangers of irregular migration, which puts individuals at great risk and often requires migrants and their families to incur crippling debt,” the State Department said.

In a telephone interview, Foreign Minister Claude Joseph said Haitian officials were trying to “work together in a more structural way” with “our American friends” as well as Mexico, Chile and Brazil to resolve the problem of the deportees.

Many of the Haitian migrants had lived for years in Chile and Brazil before venturing north in recent weeks and months. Some Haitian parents are being deported with children who have Chilean and Brazilian passports, and many say they would prefer to go back to those countries now but lack the financial means to get there.


Asked whether Haiti would request or had officially requested a halt to the flights, Joseph replied: “They are our fellow Haitians. If they have to come back, we have to receive them and try to do our best to accommodate them.”

“It’s not going to be easy for us,” he said. “But they are Haitians and we need to do our best to welcome them.”

The deportees are arriving in a country where U.N. agencies are making emergency appeals to fend off a mounting food crisis, thousands have fled their homes in the capital to escape takeovers by violent gangs allegedly linked to politicians and the police force has essentially been overwhelmed.

Some of the deportees hailed from Haiti’s now devastated south. More than a month after the deadly earthquake struck that region and killed more than 2,200 people, more than half of those in need have yet to receive aid, according to the United Nations. More than 137,000 homes were damaged or destroyed; 212,000 people have lost access to safe drinking water.

“These people will create a new crisis for the country. Some of these people will not have a place to stay,” said Pierre Esperance, director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network. “We don’t know their situations. What if some of their families were killed by the gangs or by the authorities, and now they are just being sent back? Each family has their own situation, and that’s why the international law requires someone to listen to them. We already have a political crisis, a humanitarian crisis. We don’t have rule of law. I don’t understand why the Biden administration is adding another problem.”

Several deportees said at the airport that they would try to reach family or friends for temporary shelter. Others said they were left without immediate options as they sought to reach family outside the capital.


Jeeffry Seendhy Youssheff Pierre, 27, landed Monday in Port-au-Prince on a deportee flight. He spent his first night at the home of a distant friend, but had been told there would be no more room for him.

So early Tuesday, he returned to the airport, desperate for information on how he could return to Chile – the nation he migrated to four years ago before trekking to the Texas border in recent weeks.

He is from a Haitian island off the central coast. “But I can’t go back there,” he said. “My mother is poorer than I am. We would starve.”

He left Chile, he said, “because I couldn’t get legalized and life was hard, so I tried to go to the United States,” he said. “But I can’t stay here. Haiti is hell.”

He and other deportees said U.S. authorities bound them in chains during the trip.

Deportees on Immigration and Customs Enforcement flights are regularly shackled with handcuffs and sometimes leg restraints during the boarding and takeoff process. Officers sometimes remove the restraints before landing, but they will leave them on passengers who they view as potentially noncompliant or threatening. The deported Haitians said they took strong affront from the action. DHS did not respond to a request for comment.


“They chained me like a slave and brought me back to Haiti without telling me where we were going,” he said angrily. “They chained me like a slave! I have never stolen. I have never sold drugs. Why would they treat me so badly?”

He said he had only received the equivalent of $25 from authorities after he got off the plane, and feared he wouldn’t survive long on so small a sum. Authorities have promised $100 per person, but shortages of cash have hampered initial handouts, and balances are expected to be transferred by cellular phone in the coming days.

“What am I going to do when the money runs out?” he asked.

The Biden administration is not conducting the flights as formal deportations, relying instead on an emergency provision of the U.S. public health code known as Title 42 that allows authorities to bypass normal immigration proceedings. It generally does not allow asylum seekers a chance to request humanitarian protection in the United States.

A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration to halt the use of Title 42 for migrant families, but he stayed the ruling until the end of the month. Administration officials have been returning both single adults and family groups to Haiti.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told senators Tuesday that DHS intends to empty the Del Rio, Texas, camp – where in the past week thousands of Haitian migrants have gathered – within the next 10 days. He said he expected “dramatic results” over the next two to four days as authorities send caravans of buses to transport migrants out of Del Rio.


The majority of the roughly 10,000 migrants who remain in the Del Rio camp have arrived as part of a family group, according to a U.S. agent stationed there who was not authorized to disclose the figures.

Haitian migrants on a bus in South Texas fought with federal agents and forced the driver to pull over in one incident Monday afternoon, according to Jaime Garza, the chief deputy with the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office.

“There was a group of two or three who became irate with the officers inside the bus,” Garza said in an interview. “They pulled over for safety reasons, and there were two or three that got out. Nobody was hurt. It was very alarming.”

Sheriff’s deputies from nearby countries along the remote stretch of Highway 77 responded and the migrants were taken back into custody, Garza said. “It was just a short scuffle,” he said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to requests for comment or additional details.

Amid a growing outcry from some Democrats – particularly after widely published images on Monday of mounted Border Patrol agents attempting to grab migrants and using their horses to push them back toward Mexico – the administration has sought to defend the mass deportations.


Mayorkas has said that damage from the recent earthquake had been “rather geographically limited” and that an analysis of the situation on the ground had determined that “country conditions” allowed for the repatriations. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “We’re trying to protect people. We’re conveying this is not the time to come.”

On Tuesday, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, condemned the U.S. deportations, saying they denied “most people arriving at the southwest U.S. land border any opportunity to request asylum.”

Loprete, of the International Organization for Migration, said that the U.S. government had offered initial funding to provide reception assistance, including the hygiene kits, medical consultations and one-time cash gifts equal to about $100. But he said concern was rising about the ability of his agency and the Haitian government to handle “up to 14,000 migrants, potentially in three to four weeks.”

“That would be a challenge even in a developed country with a solid economy, without stability issues and an earthquake six weeks ago, without gangs who are well established even in the airport area,” he said. “So yes, we acknowledge this is going to be a challenge.”

He added that the assistance provided so far was too limited to prevent the emergence of a longer-term crisis as thousands of desperate deportees return, some of them with no homes to go back to.

“It’s simply to help them so they can have some clothes, or they can wash, help they would need for their first hours in Haiti,” Loprete said. “The idea of reintegrating them or helping them start over with a new life, that is a further step that is absolutely necessary.”


Asked whether it was safe to deport migrants back to Haiti, he said: “Nobody can say it’s a safe place to come back to. Nobody can say it’s a safe place to live.”

He said he feared many of the returnees would simply join a new exodus of Haitians already leaving its shores in the aftermath of the August earthquake and rising violence. “Our fear is that we will see people come back only to risk their lives again to leave,” he said.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, more Haitians appear to be fleeing the nation by dangerous means, by sea to nearby Caribbean islands or over irregular land crossings to the Dominican Republic.

Many of the new deportees said they would try to join the new wave leaving Haiti, though the faced more immediate challenges – like where to sleep that night.

Without shoes to walk in, Yranese Melidor, 44, stood barefoot on the sidewalk outside the airport after arriving in Port-au-Prince from Texas. She said she felt like she’d stepped into “a nightmare.” She’d left Haiti as teenager, spending years in the Dominican Republic before migrating to Chile five years ago.

She said she’d been treated badly there – “spat” on by people who told her to “go back to her country.” She said she thought things would be different in the United States.

She sobbed uncontrollably as she spoke. Melidor had no family in the capital, and was no longer on speaking terms with her father in the south. She had children in the Dominican Republic, but she’d lost her cellphone and did not have their phone numbers. She had no idea how to get across the Dominican border, and had no idea where she would sleep.

“I would have preferred to die instead of all this misery,” she said, sobbing.

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Faiola reported from Miami. Miroff reported from Washington.