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Haiti - Social : Risk his life at sea, migrants testify (video)
02/02/2015 09:46:10

Haiti - Social : Risk his life at sea, migrants testify (video)
The northwest coast of Haiti is the main departure point for desperate irregular migrants who want to reach the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, or the United States. These crossings are often organized by unscrupulous smugglers on rickety, unsafe boats, with passengers facing violence, hunger, rape, prison and repatriation, and sometimes even death at sea.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been at the forefront of addressing the root causes of high migration flows from major at-risk communities. Between 2008 and 2014, its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme offered direct assistance to 8,638 returning migrants.

The programme reinforced the Haitian government’s capacities to address irregular migration in targeted communities along the country’s northern coast, facilitating the return and reintegration of irregular migrants rescued at sea.

Several communication campaigns to deter irregular migration have been implemented using different channels, including illustrated magazines in Creole, radio programs, theatrical performances, and mass sensitization campaigns.

"It is essential to inform potential migrants of the dangers intrinsic in irregular sea journeys. We felt that the most persuasive way to do this was through the actual voices of those who have attempted these dangerous and, too often, deadly journeys. We met with local Port-de-Paix residents and found that they had a lot of stories to share, even though some were afraid to speak out or show their faces," explains Ilaria Lanzoni, IOM’s Media and Communications Officer in Haiti.

IOM has produced a video to raise awareness about the dangers of irregular migration by sea from Haiti. The documentary features a series of direct testimonials from Port-de-Paix and Tortuga Island residents who attempted the perilous crossings.

"The stories that were collected form quite a comprehensive catalogue of the hardships and atrocities faced by irregular migrants. Most of them witnessed people dying during crossings and being thrown overboard by smugglers, who often use violence against anyone who dares to complain. Passengers are often refused water and food during the whole journey," declared Gregoire Goodstein, IOM Haiti Chief of Mission.

Lanzoni adds "Personally, the story that touched me the most was Betty’s, a 28-year-old widow and mother of two, who lost her husband during one of such trips, without ever getting to know exactly what happened to him. Despite that, she attempted the journey herself twice, in the hope of being able to give a better life to her children. What is heart-breaking is that, despite all the efforts and resources spent on these attempts, they brought nothing but misery to these families, who often end up poorer than before."

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