Increasingly concerned for the almost 2,000 Haitians cleared for political refuge in the United States, the U.S. embassy is developing plans to transport them overland to the neighboring Dominican Republic and safety.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has determined that 1,824 Haitians can be classified as victims of persecution. They are largely partisans of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and therefore eligible for asylum in the United States. The number of approved refugees has been growing weekly.In a meeting with human rights groups on Friday, U.S. Ambassador William Swing said the embassy hoped to transport groups of 40 refugees at a time to the Domincan Republic, participants in the meeting said. Each group would be accompanied by a U.S. official as far as foreigners are allowed near the border. Then, the refugees would be escorted to the Dominican Republic by a private refugee agency. From the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, the refugees could be flown to the United States.
The military-installed government in Haiti has not acted on repeated U.S. requests for permission to land specially chartered planes for the refugees, embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager has said. Getting the persecuted Haitians out by sea is also a problem, Schrager said, citing the difficulty of assuring protection at the port, the scene of rowdy demonstrations by civilians.
The overland trips would require guarantees of safe passage from de facto authorities, which embassy officials hope could come within the next few weeks. Such guarantees have been granted in isolated cases over the past two weeks.
The climate of danger for Aristide supporters is evident every day, particularly in the poor neighborhoods.