Gangs, crime, dysfunction and hunger face those turned back from U.S. as country is in chaos

Deported from the United States, Pierre Charles landed a week ago in Port-au-Prince, a capital more dangerous and dystopian than the one he’d left four years before. Unable to reach his family, he left the airport alone, on foot.

Charles was unsure how to make his way to the Carrefour neighborhood through a city shrouded in smoke and dust, often tolling with gunfire from gangs and police. On the airport road, the 39-year-old laborer tried unsuccessfully to flag down packed buses. He asked motorcycle drivers to take him but was told again and again that the trip was too risky.

Finally, someone agreed to take him as far as a bus stop.

“I know there are barricades and shootings,” Charles said as he took off into the unknown, “but I have nowhere else to go.”

At least 2,853 Haitians deported from Texas have landed here in the last week with $15-$100 in cash handouts and a “good luck out there” from migration officials — many setting foot in the country for the first time in years, even decades, the Associated Press and the Pulitzer Center report.

More than a city, Port-au-Prince it is an archipelago of gang-controlled islands in a sea of despair. Some neighborhoods are abandoned. Others are barricaded behind fires, destroyed cars and piles of garbage, occupied by heavily armed men. On Saturday, a local newspaper reported 10 kidnappings in the previous 24 hours including a journalist, a singer’s mother and a couple driving with their toddler, who was left behind in the car.

Even before the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse a in July, the government was weak — the Palace of Justice inactive, congress disbanded by Moïse and the legislative building pocked by bullets. Now, although there is a prime minister, it is absent.

Most of the population of Port-au-Prince has no access to basic public services, no drinking water, electricity or garbage collection. The deportees join thousands of fellow Haitians who have been displaced from their homes, pushed out by violence to take up residence in crowded schools, churches, sports centers and makeshift camps among ruins. Many of these people are out of reach even for humanitarian organizations.

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