Haiti top diplomat asks UN Security Council for help with gangs

Gang-related violence has displaced more than 19,000 Haitians in recent months, according to the UN.

Gang members march following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. [File: Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press]

Haiti’s top diplomat has called on the United Nations Security Council for help dealing with the country’s spiralling gang violence and crime.

Foreign Minister Claude Joseph told the 15-member body on Monday that the existing UN political mission needs to pivot towards strengthening security and law enforcement institutions in Haiti, which is also in the midst of a political crisis made deeper by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July.

“It’s vital to take account of the new realities that the country is facing and that the mandate is adjusted accordingly,” Joseph said.

The Caribbean nation has struggled since a devastating earthquake in 2010. Shortly after Moise’s assassination, another earthquake in August killed more than 2,200 people and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

That came as Haiti has continued to contend with escalating gang-related killings, kidnappings and turf wars. The violence has forced about 19,000 Haitians from their homes in recent months, with many living in makeshift shelters and unsanitary conditions, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, the recent mass deportation of Haitian asylum seekers by US authorities from the Texas-Mexico border has shone a further spotlight on the dire situation in Haiti.

The Security Council deployed a full-fledged peacekeeping mission in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. It was replaced in 2017 by a police mission, which was then replaced by the smaller political mission in 2019.

Also speaking on Monday, UN’s Haiti envoy Helen La Lime told the council that while Haiti’s National Police have been working to follow recommendations that UN policing experts made this summer, the force is “overstretched and under-resourced”.

Haiti’s government “must implement a more holistic approach to addressing gang violence,” La Lime said.

Joseph, in turn, said officials need the UN’s Haiti mission to focus on supporting the government’s efforts in “security stabilisation and the protection of civilians”.

The mission’s mandate, which is up for renewal this month, currently includes promoting police professionalism and supporting a national strategy to reduce violence. It also has a number of other goals, such as advancing electoral reforms.

Criticism of US deportations

Council members said Haiti needs continued support to find its way forward, though some also emphasised the country’s own role in doing so.

“It is ultimately up to the Haitian people themselves to bring the country out of his plight,” said Geng Shuang, the Chinese deputy ambassador. He compared years of international aid efforts to giving someone a blood transfusion or oxygen that “has proven to be neither markedly effective nor sustainable”.

He and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Polyanskiy also criticised the expulsion of thousands of Haitian asylum seekers along the US border. Thousands of others were allowed into the US temporarily to pursue their claims to stay.

Images of US border patrol agents on horseback corralling and lashing the migrants stirred an outcry, the resignation of the US special envoy to Haiti and an investigation, as well as a visit to Haiti and apology last week from a top US official.

“We are dismayed by the decision to forcibly return to Haiti those who cobbled together the totality of their means to leave Haiti in search of better lives for their children,” Polyanskiy said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies