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Further information on UA 403/91 (AMR 51/61/91, 20 November) - USA: Haitian asylum seekers

, Index number: AMR 51/071/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/71/91
Distr: UA/SC
20 December 1991
Further information on UA 403/91 (AMR 51/61/91, 20 November 1991) - Refoulement
(forcible return)
USA:Haitian asylum seekers
On 17 December an appeal court in Atlanta lifted the injunction made by a Federal
Court in Miami on 19 November which had for the time being barred the United
States (US) Government from continuing to forcibly return Haitian
asylum-seekers to Haiti. This will enable the US authorities to resume the
forcible return of asylum-seekers to Haiti, and it is expected that such returns
will commence imminently.
Amnesty International is concerned that there is a grave risk that those
returned could include many people who would be at risk of serious human rights
violations in Haiti.
Article 33 of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees, which is binding on the US, prohibits refoulement -- the forcible
return of any person to a country where they risk serious human rights
violations. In order to ensure that such people are properly identified and
given effective protection from such forcible return, it is essential that
the US Government grants all asylum-seekers access to a full and fair procedure
for determining the merits of their asylum claims. Amnesty International is
concerned that the US Government has not given any such opportunity to the
Haitian asylum-seekers currently wishing to seek protection in the United
States. They are "screened" at Guantanamo, the US naval base in Cuba, in order
to ascertain whether they are likely to have a claim for asylum and so may
be allowed to proceed to the United States to lodge their asylum claim; others
are liable to be returned to Haiti. But this screening procedure lacks certain
essential safeguards which must be allowed to asylum-seekers and which are
required by international standards. These essential safeguards include the
right of every asylum-seeker to legal advice and, if their application for
asylum is rejected, the right to have an effective review of their case before
being expelled from the country where they seek asylum.
Following a violent coup in Haiti on the night of 29 to 30 September, after
which hundreds of people were wounded and killed and hundreds more imprisoned
or ill-treated, thousands of Haitians left the country by boat to get to the
United States. Over 7,000 have been intercepted by US Coast Guard Ships before
reaching US territorial waters, and over 5,500 are currently accommodated at
Guantanamo, the US naval base in Cuba.
On 18 November the US Government announced that only those who may be
able to qualify for asylum would be allowed to proceed to the US to lodge an
asylum claim, and by mid-December over 700 such people had been identified.
The US Government's announcement of 18 November stated that the others, apart
from those who had been granted temporary refuge by other countries in the
region, would be returned to Haiti.
page 2 of FU 403/91
On 18 and 19 November the US authorities returned over 500 asylum-seekers
to Haiti.
The US Government has stated that it does not believe that the
asylum-seekers would face persecution if returned to Haiti, and has expressed
the view that many of them are economic migrants who have left the country
because of the deterioration of economic conditions as a result of the trade
embargo imposed by the Organization of American States in protest against the
coup. Amnesty International remains concerned that, contrary to statements
made by the US Government, widespread and severe human rights violations in
Haiti continue to occur, and that those who have tried to leave the country
following the coup could be perceived as government opponents and, as such,
become targets for abuses perpetrated by the security forces and armed civilians
acting with them.
Since September 1981 a bilateral agreement between the governments of
the US and Haiti has permitted the US authorities to intercept outside US
territorial waters those Haitians travelling to the US and to return them to
Haiti. The US Government contends that under this arrangement no one is sent
back who may have a legitimate claim to refugee status. However, of the more
than 20,000 Haitians interviewed at sea in the ten years from September 1981
to September 1991, only about 30 were permitted entry to the US to pursue their
asylum claim.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/telephone calls/faxes/express
and airmail letters:
- expressing concern that the US government may be returning refugees to Haiti
without giving them a full and fair examination of their reasons for fearing
to return to Haiti;
- stressing the US Government's obligation under international law not to return
people to countries where they risk serious human rights violations, and that
this requires that all asylum-seekers be provided with access to a full and
fair asylum procedure;
- pointing out that a full and fair asylum procedure must include certain
procedural safeguards, such as access to legal advice and the opportunity to
have an effective review of a negative decision;
- urging the US Government not to forcibly return any asylum-seekers to Haiti
before they have had their application examined in a full and fair asylum
procedure, and under no circumstances to return any Haitians who would be at
risk of human rights violations.
1) The President of the USA:
George Bush
Head of State
The White House, Office of the President
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington DC 20500, USA
Telegrams: President Bush, Washington DC 20500, USA
Telephone: + 202 456 1414
Faxes: + 202 456 2461
Telexes: ITT 440074
[Salutation: Dear Mr President]
page 3 of FU 403/91
2) Secretary of State:
James Baker
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20520, USA
Telegrams: Secretary of State Baker, Washington DC 20520, USA
Telephone: + 202 647 4910
Telexes: ITT 440080 secstate
[Salutation: Dear Secretary Baker]
3) Attorney General:
William P Barr
Attorney General Designate
Department of Justice
10th Street and Constitution Ave N.W.
Washington DC 20530, USA
Telegrams: Mr Barr, Department of Justice, Washington DC
20530, USA
Telephone: + 202 514 2000
Faxes: + 202 514 4699
Telexes: TWX 710 822 1907
[Salutation: Dear Mr Barr]
Gene McNary
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
425 Eye Street N.W.
Washington DC 20536, USA
Washington Post (newspaper)
Washington Post Co
1150 15th St
NW, Washington, DC 20071, USA
New York Times (newspaper)
The New York Times Co
229 W 43 St
New York, NY 10036, USA
Haiti en Marche (newspaper)
173 N.W. 94 St
FL 33150, USA
and diplomatic representatives of the USA in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
of your section office, if sending appeals after 31 January 1992.

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