By SARAH LARIMER
The Coast Guard has yet to see a noticeable change in migration trends from Haiti following a deadly earthquake in the Caribbean nation earlier this year, officials said Wednesday.Coast Guard commandant Adm. Thad Allen said authorities have monitored the displaced population of Port-au-Prince and the areas affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake, and found that some Haitians left for other parts of the country while others went to makeshift camps.
Some Haitians also moved in with relatives, Allen said, but there was no significant increase of people looking to leave the country altogether.
“We’ve watched very closely, and we have been watching,” said Allen, who was in Miami for a maritime homeland security summit. “There have been some interdictions. But nothing significantly above historical levels.”
In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-7 earthquake, some worried about an influx Haitians seeking to escape. But Allen said he wasn’t surprised that no change occurred after the quake, which killed thousands.
“To be able to leave Haiti, you have to have the means to do it, either construct a vessel or have money to pay to have somebody do that,” Allen said. “I think the conditions in Haiti are probably significantly severe enough right now that trying to figure out a way to get off the island might not be the No. 1 problem they’re dealing with.”
Coast Guard officials intercepted 1,782 Haitian migrants in the 2009 fiscal year and have recorded more than 400 Haitian interdictions in this fiscal year, according to the agency’s website. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Branham said authorities will be “especially vigilant” during the upcoming 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season, but there is typically a dip in migration during that time.
“I call it a fragile population,” Branham said. “And much more so than ever before. Typically, in the past, migrations haven’t been triggered by natural disasters. They’ve been more political turmoil, and that kind of thing. But we haven’t had a population this fragile before either.”