Fear of kidnapping pushes more Haitians to emigrate to Puerto Rico

Haitian Hedwige Brenord lost her 28-year-old niece Rose F. Moreau in a shipwreck while trying to reach Puerto Rico and her voice cracks as she remembers: "fled with his family, left his home in Haiti due to the situation of the kidnappings".

At 51 years old, Brenord conveyed to EFE his concern about the increase in instability, the deterioration of security and the multiplication of kidnappings, robberies and rapes in his native country.

"I think the international community could do better, control kidnappings and provide security"emphasized the Haitian, resident in the United States for 30 years.

Haiti is experiencing an unprecedented crisis since the assassination of then-President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, and is immersed in a spiral of violence, which last week led dozens of police officers to attack the residence of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.


Leonard Prophil, a Haitian community leader in Puerto Rico, alerted EFE that "especially now" kidnappers are looking for women "because parents are more sensitive to girls".

The representative recounted that the kidnappers target people with relatives in the US and demand between $20,000 and $50,000 to free them, something he knows first-hand because his niece was kidnapped when she was 23 years old.

"When my niece was kidnapped, it was a trauma for all of us, because they knew that my family had people here in the United States."Prophil recalled anguishedly through tears.

This growing risk against women has led a greater number of women to try to emigrate to Puerto Rico, as confirmed to EFE by the US Coast Guard on the island.

Eleven Haitian women, including Moreau, died on May 12 when the boat in which they were traveling to Puerto Rico sank, the usual destination for Dominican migration to which more and more Haitians head.

According to data from the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP), in 2022 a total of 929 Haitians arrived in Puerto Rico, triple the number registered in 2021, when 310 arrived.


These eleven women have not been the only victims. At least 321 migrants died or disappeared on sea routes through the Caribbean in 2022, a record number, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Only half of the dead and disappeared in 2022 could be identified, said the IOM, which explained that 80 of this group came from Haiti, 69 from Cuba, 56 from the Dominican Republic and 25 from Venezuela.

In the waters of Puerto Rico, just this month of January, the Coast Guard rescued two groups of Haitian migrants (the first made up of 55 people and the second, 17) who were abandoned by smugglers on the uninhabited island of Monito.

In the municipal cemetery of San Juan, where they donated a piece of land to bury the Haitians, Prophil inscribes the names of the deceased and messages from their families on the tombstones.

He also tries to obtain funds to be able to pay for a burial "worthy" to his countrymen, he says as he places a Haitian flag on the grave of Rodney Junior Laguerre, a three-year-old boy who died in a shipwreck in December.


Prophil denounced from a shelter for Haitians in San Juan that his compatriots, when they arrive in Puerto Rico, encounter obstacles to access health, education, psychological care and translation services.

A large Haitian flag hangs in the main room of the modest home, where there are several beds, a bathroom and a kitchen.

The community leader explained that the migrants arrive in Puerto Rican territory indebted to the mafias that traffic people, to whom they have to pay that amount in a certain period of time or their families are in danger in Haiti.

He is doing "a market study" with the intention of creating a Haitian restaurant on the island so that his countrymen can cook food from their country of origin and earn money.

The representative urged the population to "put yourself in the shoes of haitians" and to provide legal or psychological help to the community, especially to legalize their status.

Joslin Berquin, a Haitian migrant who has lived in Puerto Rico for two decades, has suffered these problems firsthand: "If you have relatives who can help you, it’s a little better, but if not, things are very difficult."lament.

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