U.S. Processing of Haitian Asylum Seekers

T-NSIAD-92-25: Published: Apr 9, 1992. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1992.

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GAO discussed the U.S. program for interdicting and screening Haitian refugees, focusing on screening and administrative processing problems at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. GAO noted that: (1) from 1981 through September 1991, approximately 24,600 Haitians were interdicted at sea enroute to the United States by the U.S. Coast Guard; (2) 28 Haitians were found to have credible asylum claims and were brought to the United States, and the rest were returned to Haiti; (3) INS officers conduct screening interviews at Guantanamo Bay, and those refugees determined to have creditable claims are allowed to go to the United States; (4) weaknesses in the administrative procedures that followed interviews mistakenly caused the repatriation of 54 Haitians; (5) in some cases, asylum seekers were erroneously sent back to Haiti or the United States, but the numbers understate the problem; (6) the problems identified occurred because INS made clerical errors in data entry of screening decisions, and did not timely record family reunification decisions; (7) a factor that contributed to the processing problems was that several federal agencies were involved in the operations, but there was no designated lead agency responsible for the operation; (8) about half of the 54 repatriated individuals could be in jeopardy in Haiti; (9) the U.S. Embassy in Haiti conducted over 500 investigations of claims of persecution among repatriated Haitians and found no substantiating evidence; and (10) the Guantanamo Bay processing center has been closed, and interdicted Haitians are being screened aboard Coast Guard cutters.

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