U.N. urges countries to extend permits for Haitians

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 3:38 PM
U.N. urges countries to extend permits for Haitians

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations urged all governments on Tuesday to refrain from sending back Haitians to their country, which is still reeling from an earthquake 18 months ago.

The joint appeal by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and U.N. human rights office followed reports of countries including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Brazil and the United States deporting Haitians, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing.

Many people still live in dire conditions in Haiti, where an estimated 680,000 quake survivors are staying in 1,000 tented camps in Port-au-Prince and other stricken areas, he said. The quake killed more than 300,000 people and initially left more than 1.5 million homeless.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay urged governments to renew permission for Haitians to remain in their countries on humanitarian grounds.

"This appeal would include those Haitians evacuated in the aftermath of the earthquake, those who were stranded outside Haiti at the time of the earthquake, as well as their close family members under the principle of family reunification," they said in a joint letter to governments made public.

There were "serious concerns over existing protection gaps and the unmet basic humanitarian needs."

Unaccompanied minors, the disabled or others needing medical care, as well as Haitian victims of human trafficking or sexual abuse were at greatest risk if sent home now, they said.

Aid workers in the capital said last month they were preparing for a new cholera outbreak as the rainy season threatens to revive an epidemic that has killed nearly 5,000 people since October.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)