Those who remain at home in Haiti are often alone—thinking of them, praying for them, and calling when they can.
For Soraya, her cousin is Jean-Baptiste, a young mother who recently accompanied her husband to the hospital for more than three hours while she gave birth because of the gangs that patrol the streets in her Port-au neighborhood. – Prince.
"No one was allowed to drive. No one could drive. They threatened to kill people and she was walking the whole time," Jean-Baptiste, 32, said of Randolph. "Just hearing that story … it really touched me. I think people have a right to move around their country and not feel like they're in jail."
The conflict in Haiti, which has steadily escalated since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise by mercenaries, continues to resonate with Haitians in Greater Boston, which has long had the third-largest Haitian population. in the country, according to the US Census Bureau. . Many watch week after week as violence escalates and law and order breaks down, helping where they can and calling for more action both locally and nationally.
"You can't get tired if it's a place you're connected to, a place where you still have family," said Ruci Luigon, a Boston City Council member who spent much of her childhood downtown. Matapan is a densely populated Haitian community.
Luijin, whose family is in the heart of the conflict zone in Port-au-Prince, called on the local community to sponsor Haitians who want to settle in the United States. She also called on the Biden administration to end deportations and make it easier for immigrants to obtain work visas.
"It's about taking in as many people as possible who are fleeing conflict … and getting anti-black people out of our immigration system," she said.
Recent weeks have seen a new wave of killings and kidnappings, with at least 208 people killed, 164 injured and 101 kidnapped in the first two weeks of March alone, according to Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner of. Human rights. .
A Haitian couple from South Florida made headlines last week when they were pulled over by a bus while visiting relatives in Haiti. A couple is being held for ransom.
Hurtado's statement said another 323 people were killed in the first two months of the year, most of them by snipers shooting at random people in their homes or on the streets.
Schools have been closed in recent weeks and, without classrooms as shelter, many children have been forcibly recruited by the gangs that control much of the capital Port-au-Prince and block major roads.
We've seen these gangs get their hands on the latest weapons, and do you know where these weapons come from? United States, said Rev. Defort Florissen, 61, an outspoken human rights activist from Haiti and pastor of Total Health Christian Ministries in Boston.
Floresen's sister, who lives near the capital, is one of many parents whose children have been out of school since the new wave of violence in 2018. Time, not days, and children who "just stay at home, waiting ” opening classes for fear of being exposed for kidnapping.
"All schools are completely closed [in many areas]," he said. "It was closed two weeks ago because parents and children were kidnapped on the way to school," she added.
Also, by mid-March, at least 160,000 people had been displaced since the conflict began, including about 40,000 living in makeshift settlements with limited access to drinking water, according to the United Nations, leading to an increase in cases of cholera. As conditions worsen, many Haitians dream of fleeing the country but face obstacles when trying to obtain a passport.
"The pastor called me yesterday and said, 'I have three kids here and I don't want them to join gangs. I want to send them to Chile, Mexico, but I can't get a passport for them!”. said Floresen, who also called on the Biden administration to step in and support efforts to restore localization.
If the United States wants to help, it can help. They have the largest embassy in Haiti. They have [USAID] in all the different [geographical] departments of Haiti. "They can make sure our government issues passports to Haitian voters who want to leave this chaos," he added.
Mikalu Simon, a taxi driver and security guard from Somerville who has eight siblings in Haiti, said he sees no way to stop gang violence other than military force, noting that few gang members can return to traditional ways of working after kidnappings. And the blockade. It turned out to be very profitable.
"How are you going to convince them to put down their guns and join $10-an-hour work programs?" 56-year-old Simon asked. "We don't have an effective justice system to bring them to justice."
Others, however, see a greater role for Haitian immigrants in restoring political stability to their country of origin, using their financial power to more actively protect family interests back home.
There is a lot of money that people outside of Haiti bring into Haiti. From decentralizing capital to diversification, said Jean-Baptiste, who considers himself part of a group of millennials who would like to see a political rally in support of new ideas in Haiti, a parliament historically dominated by older men.
She said that if the government tried ideas "different from the solutions we've been hearing about since the 1990s, I think we would see a different Haiti."