NEW YORK — The United Nations' top refugee official has proposed that nations throughout the Western Hemisphere provide temporary asylum for Haiti's boat people, the New York Times reported in today's editions.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, in a confidential memorandum to the State Department and to Bill Clinton's transition team, says the President-elect's inauguration next month will create an "opportunity to fashion a humane and effective response" to the Haitian refugee crisis.
Tens of thousands of Haitians have been picked up at sea after the coup that toppled democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September, 1991.
Initially, the Bush Administration housed them on Coast Guard vessels and at a migrant camp on a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But later, it began repatriating them directly.
Hundreds of vessels are reportedly being built in Haiti, and throngs of Haitians are expected to try to flee after the Clinton inauguration to take advantage of the Democrat's campaign promise to stop forced repatriation.
Ogata has repeatedly criticized the Bush Administration for returning refugees to Haiti without offering them a chance to appeal for protection and asylum.