United States history of maritime interdiction particularly Haitian Boat People

The United States has a history of forbidding foreign boats from entering its territories and reaching its coastline, particularly boats from Haiti and Cuba. Originally, in 1981 the U.S. had an agreement with Haiti which allowed the boarding of a vessel. Those forbidden at sea were interviewed to determine their status as a refugee. Upon discovery of any violations, the vessel was sent back to Haiti after notifying the Haitian government. When the U.S. stopped abiding by this practice, the agreement became terminated in 1994. However, the United States has continued to forbid entrance of Haitian vessels.


Such levels of security are enforced to manage drug trafficking, smuggling, weapons transport, as well as illegal entry. The agreement is strong that the U.S. fully exercised its authority.

A point of conflict is non-refoulement. When the U.S. Coast Guard became overwhelmed with the sheer volume of Haitian migrants, instead of assessing the refugee status of the ship, the boat was simply pushed back to Haiti. In 1993, this method was challenged in U.S. Supreme Court in Sale v. Haitian Centers Council. The court determined the laws did not apply to the high seas. However, the European Court of Human Rights decided the opposite in the 2012 case between Italy and Libya, in which refugees were returned to Libya. Italy was fined and made to pay reparations to each individual.

A source of contention, these cases will set precedence for future conflicts of interest regarding the forcible return of migrant vessels and assist in determining a humane outcome for all involved.

Reply to this article

Read more: immigration, Boat People, Illegal Immigration, immigration

« 18 more Haitians dead as ship capsizes in Turks and Caicos Islands | Main | An Answer to those who say Haitians should not risk their lives on Boat to reach the US »

Return to Articles List

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

E-mail (required, will not be published)

Subject: United States history of maritime interdiction particularly Haitian Boat People edit

» »

Our objective is to share with you news and information about Haiti and the people of Haiti. Traditions, habits and the way we were  or  grew are alive in this site. We highly recommend that you Subscribe to our Newsletter and also share with us some of the things that are memorable and made us unique people.