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Sensemaker: America first, Haiti last

Sensemaker: America first, Haiti last

Tuesday 21 September 2021

What just happened


Long stories short

  • Concerns over major Chinese property company Evergrande struggling to make its $300 billion of interest payments led to jitters in global markets.  
  • The Biden administration said it will allow fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and EU to travel to the US from November.
  • A swarm of bees killed 63 endangered African penguins near Cape Town. Scientists are working on the assumption that the birds disturbed a nearby nest or hive.

America first, Haiti last

When American officials granted temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in May, it cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in their home country, the western hemisphere’s poorest. 

The situation in Haiti deteriorated rapidly since then:

  • The president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in July. A battle for power and heightened political instability ensued.
  • The country’s unstable government was unable to handle the aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the country a month later. 
  • A month after the earthquake, 650,000 people still need emergency humanitarian assistance.

Into this hell, the Biden administration began deporting the first of about 14,000 Haitians. Most are held in an encampment in the Texas border town of Del Rio, as Haitian and other migrants cross over the Rio Grande from Mexico in greater numbers in recent days.

The first deportees landed in Haiti on Sunday. There were three flights of migrants. Some of the migrants told journalists that uniformed officials had told them that the flight they were getting on was headed to Florida. Some were placed on board in handcuffs.

Haitian officials expect there will be six flights a day for the next three weeks. They appealed to the US to suspend the deportations – “a humanitarian moratorium” – because they are unable to resettle or even feed all the new arrivals.

The first arrivals were given Styrofoam containers with rice and beans. The government said it will give them the equivalent of $100 each and it will then be up to them to figure things out. Many said they won’t stay in Haiti and that their only option was, once again, to migrate.

Biden, who had pledged a more humanitarian approach to immigration than Donald Trump, made the deportations under a Trump-era pandemic order. His administration said the deportations are consistent with a tough enforcement policy aimed at stopping the influx. It’s America First, all over again.


Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Hotel Rwanda
Paul Rusesabagina hid more than 1,200 people inside a hotel in Kigali during the country’s 1994 genocide. He was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, a number of other honours, and inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda. He was just sentenced to 25 years in prison for “terrorism”. The charge was that he backed a rebel group behind deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019. But Rusesabagina’s family called the trial a sham and said that he was targeted because he had become increasingly critical of human rights abuses by Paul Kagame’s government, which aggressively cracks down on opponents at home and abroad. Rusesabagina, who in 2018 called for an end to Kagame’s rule, was living in exile when he was arrested and taken back to Kigali to be tried. Now 67 years old, his sentence means he will likely die in jail. For years, Kagame has evaded international sanctions for his human rights abuses because of his success in turning Rwanda around after the genocide.


New things technology, science, engineering

Internet sleuthers
22-year-old Gabby Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie had planned the trip of a lifetime – a road trip across America’s national parks in their van. On 1 September Laundrie arrived in Florida with the van, but without Petito. On 11 September Gabby Petito’s parents reported her missing. Over the weekend a body reportedly matching her description was found in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and the FBI are searching for Laundrie, who is missing. It’s a sadly familiar story. What happened next isn’t. Petito was a small-fry influencer and vlogger, a growing trend for couples who live a nomadic ‘van life’. When the news of her disappearance broke, internet sleuthers took it on themselves to find out what they could. Petito’s Instagram now has over 900k followers. On TikTok there have been 630 million views of videos tagged #gabbypetito, many of them forensic looks into the couple’s social media posts. One family who had been following the case and also document their ‘van life’ online noticed that they had seen a van matching images shared by law enforcement in some of their own footage. The video of the van went viral. After the family submitted the footage to the FBI, what are thought to be Petito’s remains were found not far from the van’s location. 


The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

Babynomics
The falling birth rate could leave the UK with fewer workers, a weaker economy and unsustainable public finances, warns cross-party think tank Social Market Foundation. Last year, the total fertility rate (TFR) – number of children per woman – was 1.58 in England & Wales and 1.29 in Scotland. That’s about half the post-World War Two peak of 2.93. But with UK parents spending an average 22 per cent of their income on full time childcare, a hefty amount more than most other western economies, are we surprised that less of us want to have a kid? Covid has played its part too with the lockdown-fuelled clash of increasing economic pressure and decreasing sex lives also slowing the birth rate. The SMF report argues for a liberal pronatalism, modelled off other European countries like France who support parents with monthly payments and incentives. More babies = more money isn’t a new idea. However, and it’s a big however, policy and fertility don’t always go hand in hand. Policies that directly confront population growth can be expensive and controversial. But, policies that also support women – and fathers – to be more flexible in the workplace and spend less on childcare clearly have their own separate benefits. 


Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

Climate unaccountability
Boris Johnson and UN secretary-general António Guterres held a roundtable at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address greenhouse gas emissions targets and climate finance. Two reports were published ahead of the meeting. The UN released figures that showed global emissions would be 16 per cent higher in 2030 than in 2010 (a 45 per cent reduction is needed to prevent disastrous climate change). And the OECD published a report that found rich countries likely missed a goal to contribute $100 billion last year to help poorer countries cope with climate change. Guterres wanted updates on both targets and financing from the rich-country leaders who attended the meeting. Johnson was a co-host because he will be hosting Cop 26 in November, and the success of the UN climate change conference depends on getting rich countries to commit to yet more ambitious targets. Did they? It was a closed-door meeting. The UN declined to name the countries that were represented there.


Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Universal Credit cut
On 6 October the Universal Credit uplift scheme, a lifeline over the pandemic for many of the 5.8 million who claim UC, will end. Under 25s, who already received less money than older claimants pre-pandemic, will especially feel the money crunch – at the same time as a youth employment crisis threatens their job prospects and an energy crisis pushes their bills up. Research from youth homelessness charity Centrepoint found that 69 per cent of the under 25 UC claimants they spoke to say the cut will make it more difficult to buy food and essentials and 59 per cent say it will make it harder to pay rent bills. Half of the claimants also said the uplift removal would make it harder to access work, education and training. It’s not just under 25s who will be feeling the pinch too. According to the Resolution Foundation, families who claim UC are four times likely than the wider population to be on pre-payment meters for their power – which is more at risk from energy price hikes. Despite the outrage from Labour, as well as some Tory ministers, Downing Street isn’t budging on the uplift removal.

Thanks for reading, and do share this around.

Paul Caruana Galizia
@pcaruanagalizia

Phoebe Davis
@phoebe_ivy

Produced by Phoebe Davis and edited by Xavier Greenwood. 

Photographs John Moore/Getty Images, Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP/Getty Images, gabspetito/Instagram, Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images