Haitians celebrate ‘Diaspora Week’ at home



Hundreds of Haitians living abroad in France, Canada and the United States are expected to fly home this week as Haiti celebrates diaspora week.

The five-day gathering, now in its second year, will not only highlight the contributions and concerns of Haiti’s estimated 4.5 million citizens living abroad, but it will also focus on what their quake-recovering nation has to offer for those considering investing or moving back home.

“Our message this week is for the diaspora to unite,” said Bernice Fidelia, Haiti’s Minister of Haitians Living Abroad.

A former Miami-Dade County Commission aide, Fidelia was herself a member of the diaspora until she was tapped by President Michel Martelly two months ago to head the ministry during a government reshuffle. Now, in her new role, she’s committed to getting others to follow suit.

“They have to be the ones that really put their heads together for the reconstruction of the country,” she said. “Yes we have the international community’s help. But only a child of the house can take care of the house.”

Helping the government in this endeavor is Haitian Diaspora Working in Haiti/ L’Association de la Diaspora Travaillant en Haiti (ADHTH). The organization helps returnees navigate Haiti’s complex environment, which includes everything from knowing the exact port fees on relocation items, to getting a National Identification Card, to getting a Haitian passport, a benefit now granted to naturalized Haitians under the constitution.

“Our goal is to not only have the diaspora return, but to make sure that their return is sustainable,” said Arielle Jean-Baptiste, founder of the diaspora group. “Haiti is a complex place. It takes love and commitment to come back and stay. But believe it or not, Haiti has its rewards.”

In addition to hearing from Jean-Baptiste’s group, attendees will hear directly from other ministers and government representatives as they address concerns about crime and security, development and a controversial education initiative being funded by the diaspora via a tax on telecommunications and wire transfers.

Introduced by Martelly in 2011, the education tax has been a sore point to many Haitians living abroad who have criticized the government’s lack of transparency and accountability about the fund. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Haitians living abroad sent nearly $2.1 billion home in 2011 — a quarter of Haiti’s national income. The monetary institution has also noted that Haiti also suffers from severe brain drain with 84 percent of its university graduates living abroad.

Fidelia, who hopes to change those statistics, said she plans to address the tax issue during the week. She also has invited Haiti’s ambassadors to Brazil, the United States, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to discuss issues affecting Haitians in those countries. Meanwhile, her ministry is in the process of setting up a hotline for people to call with concerns and issues, she said. The conference ends Sunday.


“If my job is to integrate and help provide guidance for those who want to return home or invest in the country,” Fidelia said, “I should be able to give them the affinity to move back to Haiti.”

Read more Haiti stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category