US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Jan. 22 that undocumented Haitians who arrived after last week’s earthquake will be sent back to Haiti. While removal of undocumented Haitians already in the US before the earthquake has been put on hold, Napolitano told a news conference that Haitians should not view the earthquake as an open opportunity to migrate to the US, but remain in their country to help rebuild. She stated that “attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation.” (Jurist, Jan. 22)
On Jan. 21, Haiti’s Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime announced that tent villages are being constructed outside of Port-au-Prince to house 400,000 people made homeless by the earthquake. The first wave of 100,000 is due to be transferred to these villages, each with the capacity to house 10,000 people, near the northern down of Croix Des Bouquets as soon as possible.
There are some signs of progress on the ground, as aid finally begins to reach the many thousands left homeless and without access to basic services. Banks have now reopened, giving Haitians access to cash for the first time since the quake hit, and the sea port has been repaired sufficiently to begin receiving limited amounts of aid. But medical care is still woefully insufficient, with Doctors Without Borders stating that there were 10- to 12-day backlogs at some medical sites. As a result, many patients’ wounds are becoming infected, with some already dying of sepsis. (Open Democracy Security Briefings, Jan. 22)