News L’Agence Haitienne de Presse – Sarkozy’s visit – Bill Clinton brings in the Haitian Diaspora – U.S. repatriates 166 from the high seas

Posted on February 18, 2010

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AHP News English Summary Translation – February 16, 2010

President Sarkozy’s visit – Bill Clinton asks the Haitian diaspora to join the effort – U.S. announces repatriation of 166 Haitians, warns against illegal immigration

February 16, 2010  – (AHP)-  French President Nicolas Sarkozy is arriving early this morning (7:00 AM Wednesday) in Port-au-Prince for the first visit to Haiti by a French president since Haiti’s independence on January 1st, 1804 following the victory by the indigenous army over the powerful army of  Napoléon (on November 18, 1803).  To begin the four hour visit, Mr. Sarkozy’s plane will be met by President René Préval, who will accompany him on a helicopter flight over the areas hardest hit by the devastating January 12th earthquake. 

 The French president will then visit the field hospital of the French civil security services located on the grounds of the Lycée Français (French high school) and meet with French teams and injured Haitians. He will also met with French rescue workers, members of the French community in Haiti, representatives of NGOs and civilian and military leaders of the United Nations Mission (MINUSTAH) at the French Embassy, where he will make a speech.  

At the collapsed National Palace, President Sarkozy will met with President Préval, Prime Minister, Jean-Max BELLERIVE and members of the government involved in reconstruction efforts.  

Before concluding the visit, the two presidents are scheduled to make a statement to the press during which Mr.  Sarkozy plans to announce details of the “important financial measures” to assist Haiti, according to sources at the Elysée in Paris. He will also highlight plans to build an administrative zone that appears to have the edge over plans to rebuild the National palace.  

 President Sarkozy also intends to raise the possibility that Haitian students may be able to study at universities in  Martinique and Guadeloupe and will elaborate on plans by the European Union to ship thousands of temporary shelters to Haiti over the next two weeks to help survivors prepare for the rainy season.  

The visit comes against a backdrop of comments from many quarters asserting that France should be at the forefront of the reconstruction efforts in light of France’s history as a former colonial power.  

Moreover, France has often been criticized in connection with its having demanded  that Haiti pay a huge price for its independence – 150 million gold francs that Haiti was compelled to start paying in 1825 under President Jean-Pierre Boyer and that remained a drain on the economy until it was finally paid off in 1950 under  Haitian President  Dumarsais Estimé.

In 2003, the Aristide government called on France to pay more than $21 billion in restitution to Haiti.  

It was this delicate and embarrassing matter that poisoned relations between The Chirac and Aristide governments in 2003 and was said by many to have been at the root of the forced departure of President Aristide on February 29, 2004 because it might set an uncomfortable precedent.  

 

 Many Haitians believe that the requirement to pay this large sum to France crippled Haiti’s development and is the reason why it has never been possible to accumulate capital as long as there were these huge debt payments to be made.  

 Other interests and individuals in Haiti and France, including Régis Debray , opposed the restitution campaign, labeling it hare-brained or preposterous. 

 New-York, February 16, 2010 – (AHP)- The UN Special Envoy to Haiti,  Bill Clinton, recently given the portfolio of coordinating aid for the reconstruction of Haiti, has reportedly decided to involve the Haitian diaspora in this effort.  

Mr. Clinton, resuming work Friday after his cardiac procedure, plans to meet this Thursday with members of the Haitian diaspora.

 A second meeting has been scheduled for February 24.  

The former U.S. president said he believes that despite the enormous losses, Haiti still has a chance to free itself from the chains of its past and the rubble of the devastating earthquake.  

 

The U.S. announces that the Coast Guard has recently returned 166 undocumented Haitians to Cap-Haitien  

The Office of Public Affairs of the U.S. Embassy announced to the press that a group of 88 undocumented Haitians were repatriated on Tuesday, February 16, and another group of 78 were returned on Thursday February 11.     

The first group consisted of 59 men, 19 women, 3 young girls and 7 boys. They were intercepted 100 nautical miles from Tortuga by the Hamilton and the Coast Guard. The second group consisted of 64 men and 14 women, one of whom is three months pregnant. They were intercepted by Bahmian Royal Defense Forces on February 6th and subsequently turned over to U.S. authorities.  

The U.S. government remains on alert for a possible increase in the level of “undocumented migrants” coming from Haiti and has thus increased its patrols in the Caribbean to prevent outflows and to safely return them to Haiti. The Bahamiam Coast Guard has also increased its patrols.  

The press statement pointed out that journeys aboard unseaworthy vessels are extremely dangerous and a grave risk to the passengers. Coast Guard personnel say they have assisted many victims who were abandoned on the high seas, robbed of all their possessions and beaten or sexually assaulted by traffickers of migrants or by fellow passengers.   

The press release added that the U.S. government and the international community reiterate their determination to accompany Haiti and work with the Haitian government to rebuild a better Haiti. The U.S. government advises anyone intending to come to the United States illegally not to take the risk but rather to remain safely in Haiti to take part in the numerous reconstruction initiatives.  

For further information on legal immigration to the U.S., the press release suggested that people visit the U.S. Consulate website at www.unitedtstesvisas.gov.