Sunday, 23 September 2007

How the deaths of 80 desperate Haiti migrants at sea can go unreported

And still on the McCann coverage: while Madeleine disappeared on the night of 3 May 2007, early on 4 May at least 80 people perished when a boat sank in the Caribbean. Some of the victims may have been eaten by sharks; many were women and children. Yet the British media, while giving the McCann story wall-to-wall coverage, have been largely silent over these ‘disappearances’.

Take a look at Peter Hallward’s brilliant exposé of the Haiti disaster and his alternative perspective on the McCann coverage at According to the site’s home page: ‘Haitianalysis aims to provide young Haitian journalists a direct route to English speaking audiences, bypassing the need for corporate intermediaries. To accomplish this we plan to provide monetary, technological, and human/translation resources to young, inspired Haitian journalists from poor backgrounds. We also aim to provide a positive perspective on grassroots civil society and look at the under-reported news and events in Haiti and that affect Haiti.’
As Hallward reports, around 75 per cent of Haiti’s population ‘lives on less than $2 per day, and 56 per cent live on less than $1 per day’. Punitive international trading arrangements mean that Haiti’s poor remain poor. ‘Every serious political attempt to allow Haiti’s people to move (in ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s phrase) “from absolute misery to dignified poverty” has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and its allies in the international community. As a result, in a normal year, an average of around a thousand of Haiti’s most desperate or most reckless citizens try to escape this misery by sea.’

Thus, early on Tuesday 1 May, around 160 desperate people crammed into a 30-foot sloop at the northern Haitian city of Cap-Haitien and headed for the neighbouring Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). What happened early in the morning of 4 May when the sloop was intercepted by a TCI police boat is unclear. Some survivors claim the TCI boat rammed the boat and then tried to tow it further out to sea. The police, however, say the boat sank as they tried to tow it out of ‘heavy seas’.

A report on the tragedy by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation (MAIB) branch in August concluded there was no evidence to suggest the TCI police launch deliberately rammed the sloop. But it does criticise the police for failing to identify procedures for the safe interception of Haitian migrants. Hallward continues: ‘The MAIB investigators further demonstrate that a whole series of failings in seamanship, communications, logistics and planning severely hampered the subsequent search and rescue operation.’

Yet this disaster has been largely ignored by the British media. Type ‘Caicos’, ‘Haiti’ or ‘Haitian’ into an online search facility of a national newspaper and you are most likely to find some useful tips about Caribbean holidays. As Hallward concludes: ‘This is business as usual. It isn’t very hard to see why most foreign observers of Haiti seem to find fantasy more palatable than fact.’


1 comment:

spud said...

This is so ill researched I am surprised that you can write!