A short, 18 second video is being shared by members of the Haitian diaspora across the Americas. In it, a young black man, purportedly Haitian, is brutally attacked by a mob of lighter-skinned men. At the beginning of the video, without hesitation, a man drives a large knife into the victim’s throat. Several cuts and bruises are already evident on the man’s body. In reaction to continued punches and attacks from the mob, the man rolls over in pain, revealing a large pool of blood on the ground. The video ends with the victim moribund, but still visibly alive. The hostile and gruesome scene, though, leaves viewers with the sensation that the victim was more than likely killed.
It is not entirely clear where exactly the video was recorded. However, accompanying messages from those who have shared it say that it was filmed in Brazil. The video, which emerged in recent days, has reached members of the Haitian diaspora as far as the Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States.
Activists across the diaspora are already mobilizing the resources at their disposition to investigate the source of this video and the whereabouts of the victim. However, according to accompanying messages, the attack was carried out against the man by anti-immigrant vigilantes. While the facts surrounding this violent incident remain unconfirmed, some Haitian immigrant communities are already perceiving this gruesome video as a threat against themselves. It is feared that the current political and economic instability in Brazil may trigger more violence against Haitian immigrants, who may be targeted as scapegoats for the current crisis.
Across the world, few topics have become as politicized as migration. The criminalization of migration combined with politically and economically unstable conditions place migrants in position of greater vulnerability, allowing vigilantes to justify the pursuit of what they may consider to be “justice.” Meanwhile, hundreds of families of Haitian descent continue to be subjected to conditions of constant fear, socioeconomic instability, and life-threatening danger.
On this World Refugee Day, it is important to recall that upwards of 3,000 Haitian people still reside in the make-shift camps in the Haitian border town of Anse-à-Pitre, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic. They fled from the Dominican Republic after June 17, 2015 out of fear of suffering violent deportations. Hundreds of families of Haitian descent still reside in the Dominican Republic in fear of facing deportation at a moment’s notice. In the Bahamas, immigrant families also continue to face xenophobic government policies. Recent reports from the Mexican town of Tijuana, which shares a border with the United States, also document the presence of Haitian families who have migrated from Brazil after conditions for them deteriorated there; they have made it all the way to Tijuana after months of travel through dangerous passages across Central America, and they now hope to enter into the United States, where they hope to find more stable conditions, as well as the opportunity to work and send remittances to family members in Haiti.
Following the implementation of neoliberal policies which have largely undermined domestic agriculture in Haiti, thousands of people who were formerly able to work on their own land and sustain themselves from their own labor were forced to sell their small parcels of land and move to larger cities or migrate abroad. This is the plight that many black, Haitian people of impoverished backgrounds continue to face. Given the restrictive rules for migration, and the xenophobia impoverished, black Haitian people can encounter abroad, it is important that Haitian people who have been displaced for political and economic reasons are remembered by society at large, as well as by those who may be in positions to make decisions that affect the lives of people in Haiti and abroad. Haiti deserves a chance to thrive. On this World Refugee Day it is also important that we denounce the violence immigrants across the world continue to face. These acts of violence against people seeking liberation should not be tolerated. In solidarity, the least we can do is publicly express our own contempt of these violent acts that dehumanize people who migrate in pursuit of better living conditions. Let us respect and uphold humanity regardless of the artificial borders that seek to contain and divide us.