Haiti reparations named top priority by UN forum as Biden administration resumes deportations

Geneva, Switzerland - The United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) listed reparations for Haiti as a top priority as it concluded its third session on Friday.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent concluded its third session on Friday by listing reparations for Haiti as a central priority.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent concluded its third session on Friday by listing reparations for Haiti as a central priority.  © HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

The dire situation in Haiti was impossible to ignore as the PFPAD revealed its preliminary recommendations for the UN and member states, crafted to advance an international racial justice framework for people of African descent.

The first Black Republic – rocked by natural disasters and epidemics in recent years – is seeing its infrastructure collapse as armed gangs take over the country. The violence has severely limited Haitians' access to education, health care, and other basic needs.

In response, the US and other Western nations have reaffirmed the urgent need for humanitarian aid, but for many Haitians, this approach misses the point.

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Jennie-Laure Sully of Solidarité Québec-Haïti put the issue directly before the PFPAD, asking, "What does help even mean when big countries keep impoverishing smaller countries? What help are we even talking about when most of the money donated to impoverished countries ends up going back to the donor countries?"

"Who truly believes that former colonizers can help or organize the help that should be given to their former colonies?"

Western legacy of colonialism lives on in Haiti

The US embassy is pictured in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 9, 2023.
The US embassy is pictured in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 9, 2023.  © Richard Pierrin / AFP

The grave conditions on the ground prevented many Haitians from traveling to Geneva to share their testimonies – a reflection of the historic injustices targeting Afrodescendant peoples.

Haiti, in particular, faces extreme repression from colonizer nations due to its symbolic status as the first Black nation established by formerly enslaved people, civil society representatives said.

After Haiti's triumph over Western imperialism, France used military force to demand the fledgling country pay 150 million francs in regular installments. A 2022 New York Times analysis found that the money Haiti gave France would have added at least $21 billion to the country's economy over the last two centuries.

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The United States was also in on the exploitation. US Marines invaded and looted Haiti's National Bank in December 1914, transferring $500,000 in gold reserves to New York. The next summer, the US launched a 19-year occupation of the country.

This legacy of intervention triggered cycles of debt, vulnerability, and trauma that persist to the present day. Powerful nations have made matters even worse by continuing to interfere in Haitian elections and manufacture the weapons enabling today's gang violence.

"Haiti is being helped to death. Help is no substitute for restitution," Sully insisted before the PFPAD.

"In the fight against racism, it is not enough for us to say that Black lives matter. It is time for us to recognize that Black nationhood matters," she ended to cheers and applause.

Biden administration resumes deportation flights to Haiti

The Biden administration has resumed deportation flights to Haiti despite desperate conditions in the country.
The Biden administration has resumed deportation flights to Haiti despite desperate conditions in the country.  © Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

The grave security concerns in Haiti – and the US' historic complicity in the crisis – have not stopped the White House from deporting Haitian people back to desperate conditions.

The Biden administration on Thursday sent a plane with 52 Haitian nationals from Alexandria, Louisiana – via Miami, Florida – to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. It was the Department of Homeland Security's first deportation flight since the federal government issued an evacuation order for US citizens in the country.

"Today, we are in disbelief of the level of hatred and inhumanity and the blatant violence the US government is perpetrating on Haiti through these deportation flights and by sending people to their potential death," Guerline Jozef, executive director of the US-based Haitian Bridge Alliance, testified before the PFPAD on Friday.

"Why is the US bringing more chaos and cruelty to a country already facing multiple emergencies?" she continued.

"This is not only morally wrong and in violation of both US and international law. It is simply a barbaric foreign policy, a foreign policy that is partly the cause of what we are witnessing and suffering in Haiti currently."

The PFPAD is expected to release its final recommendations by July – with reparations for Haiti high on the agenda.

Cover photo: HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

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