Haiti Through Satellite Images

Click to enlarge (c) Digital Globe 2010

Click to enlarge (c) Digital Globe 2010

Satellite images of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince show the effect of the major earthquake that hit the island earlier this week. In addition to destroyed houses, the images also capture displaced people gathering in open spaces – like soccer fields – as there is no place left to go (and to be safe from aftershocks). The previous blog post outlines our human rights concerns, and urges President Obama to grant temporary protected status to all Haitians in the United States. The satellite images only provide one more piece of evidence why no-one should be returned to Haiti at this point.

In a different example of how geospatial technologies are being used to respond to the crisis in Haiti, our colleagues from Ushahidi have put out a Haiti platform in order to track developments on the ground and to support relief efforts. Check it out (works best with Firefox at this point).

See additional satellite images at the Huffington Post.

(c) Digital Globe 2010

(c) Digital Globe 2010

President Obama: Protect the Human Rights of Haitians

Haiti is devastated.

According to media reports, the earthquake has resulted in thousands of deaths, more injuries, and likely countless people missing and displaced. Amnesty International researchers are monitoring the situation. The US government quickly reacted on Wednesday by pledging humanitarian, technical and financial support to the people of Haiti, and this is to be welcomed. The Department of Homeland Security stated that it is temporarily halting all deportations to Haiti, which will provide some relief to the Haitians already here, and their family and friends in Haiti who will likely rely on them for financial support.

At the same time, however, there has been no move to provide protection or secure status to Haitians in the US, or suspend specific immigration policies that discriminate against Haitian nationals. Haitians fleeing persecution or other serious human rights violations have the right to seek protection in the US, but in flagrant violation of international law, the US government stops them on the high seas and returns them to Haiti (interdiction).

President Obama Should Extend Temporary Protected Status to All Haitians in the United States
Temporary protected status (TPS) is a form of protection provided to foreign nationals whose countries have experienced environmental disasters or armed conflicts posing a serious threat to the personal safety of foreign nationals if returned. By definition it is temporary in nature and provides protection and work authorization.

TPS also provides a critical lifeline to the family and friends of people remaining in the home country because TPS beneficiaries can work legally and provide financial support overseas. The US government has made very clear that Haiti is in critical need of financial support. Ensuring that Haitians in the US have the opportunity to work complies with US human rights obligations under international law and standards, and by enabling them to support their families in Haiti, helps indirectly to provide financial assistance to that country.