Haiti’s Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit has announced that a memorandum of understanding is in the works with Russia that would allow Haitians to visit the Kremlin and Russian citizens to visit Haiti visa-free.
The upcoming signing of the visa waiver agreement comes on the back of a recent meeting with Vladmir Fedorovich Zaemsky, the Russian Ambassador for Venezuela and Pitit Dessalines party leader, Jean-Charles Moise, Bocchit told local newspaper Le Nouvelliste.
Bocchit said that he and Zaemsky are also hoping to foster a longstanding relationship between the two nations.
Haiti and Russia have, since the 20th century, developed a friendly relationship to the extent that, till date, scores of Haitian students are accepted into Moscow universities on a scholarship to study courses such as international relations, engineering, medicine and computer science.
Local media reports, however, suggest that the relationship between the two countries could cause tensions between Russian President Valdimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, who were recently seen in Osaka, Japan, having a good time, “like old friends reuniting.”
Trump received backlash last January for allegedly describing Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” Donald Trump’s statement, which he denied days later, struck a nerve among people of African descent who were yet to come to terms with his policies rejecting migrants from these countries.
Haiti, one of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, is yet to recover from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake that all but crippled the country’s already weakened public infrastructure system, including health facilities, road networks, and schools.
In addition to the earthquake, Haiti has also suffered a number of other national emergencies, including a cholera epidemic that killed at least 9,500 people and Hurricane Matthew that killed dozens in October.
Shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Obama administration granted Haitian immigrants who had already been living in the United States temporary protected status, sparing them, among other things, from deportation.
Under the Obama administration, the programme was renewed several times on the basis that the situation in Haiti was still unstable for people to go back home.
But the Trump administration in 2017 said the programme, which was to provide temporary relief, has turned into a permanent benefit for thousands of Haitians. The Department of Homeland Security officials said there have been improved conditions in Haiti since the earthquake and so the programme should be terminated, asking people to make arrangements to leave by July 2019.
Though Trump’s move to end the TPS programme has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, Haitian Americans are still moving in their numbers across the northern border with fears that they will be deported if they stayed in the U.S.