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1 Nov, 2022 19:01

US considering Guantanamo Bay for Haitian migrants – media

Washington wants to double the capacity of a holding camp amid fears of “mass exodus,” NBC News claims
US considering Guantanamo Bay for Haitian migrants – media

Anticipating a surge of human traffic from Haiti, the US government is looking at doubling the capacity of a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as one of the options, NBC News reported on Tuesday, citing two officials and an internal document. 

The US military base in Guantanamo Bay currently has a detention facility capable of accommodating about 200 people, and the White House is looking at doubling that capacity.

The National Security Council has also asked the Department of Homeland Security at which point a third country would need to be designated as a “lily pad” to handle the incoming Haitians. Migrants would be sent to Guantanamo only if and when that third country is itself overwhelmed, according to NBC.

President Joe Biden’s government last considered using Guantanamo for overflow migration in September 2021, when some 15,000 Haitians crossed the US-Mexico border in Texas and set up a tent city under a highway bridge. The idea was roundly denounced by Democrats, however, who thought the location under consideration was the camp for holding terrorist suspects.

The Migrant Operations Center in Guantanamo has been around for more than 30 years and is different from the nearby Camp Delta, which is used to hold suspected terrorists. Up to 12,000 Haitians were held there once before, after the 1991 coup. The US Coast Guard currently uses the facility to hold migrants it rescues at sea in the Caribbean. 

Haiti has been in political turmoil since President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July. Economic woes have since caused armed protesters to set up roadblocks and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The government in Port-au-Prince officially requested foreign military intervention last month, but the US has struggled to set up a coalition willing to send soldiers to the island.

“There’s been no progress getting partners to volunteer. No one is stepping up,” the Florida-based Miami Herald reported last week, noting that Brazil, Canada, and France have all refused to commit troops. Washington is also trying to postpone any major moves until after the November 8 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, the National Security Council has organized a “series of meetings” with the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security in anticipation of a “mass exodus” from Haiti.