According to The Gleaner, the US government had denied Haitians and Jamaicans the chance to apply for the 2014 diversity visa. This claim came about after the government stated that these two nations had over 50,000 immigrants in the last five years alone. From this description, it is evident that most of Haitian, as well as Jamaican migration, is to the United States. However, there are limited barriers to migration from Haiti to Jamaica or Jamaica to Haiti. It is probably as a result of this pattern that most scholars focus on Haitian Migration to the USA and Europe more than between Haiti and Jamaica.
In the study of Haitian migration, the migration of Haitians into Jamaica has not been documented as much. This is despite the proximity of Jamaica and Haiti and the history and close ties that these two nations have. Jamaica has always given asylum to political prisoners from Haiti, especially during the revolutionary era. At the same time, powerful heads of state who had been overthrown in Haiti have always sought refuge in Jamaica. It is on these grounds therefore that a close insight needs to be put on Haitian migration to Jamaica.
Exiles and Refugees
Migration of individuals into Jamaica can be traced as far as in 1750. However, the number of Haitian immigrants in Jamaica increased during the revolution era. It is during this time that scores of boats boarding Haitian refugees and exiles were recorded to have landed on the ports of Jamaica. Most of the immigrants during this time were French planters and public officials. These individuals had a huge impact on the political and cultural life of Jamaica.
For instance, great Jamaican names such as Desnoes and Espeut have a Haitian origin. Despite the fact that it has been identified that the early Haitian settlers were French planters, it has been virtually impossible for historians to trace their descendants. Information that proved ownership of property was used to identify these early settlers. However, due to the lack of proper government census records and inappropriate information from the media, tracing the path that was taken by their successors has been a great mystery. What is evident however is that their number kept on increasing.
It is believed that some of their successors might have migrated to other nations like Cuba and Louisiana. Additionally, it has been identified that during this time, Jamaicans too migrated to Haiti. This was during the pre-revolution era in Jamaica. Therefore, Haitians and Jamaicans had developed strong ties since the 18th century as a result of their migration patterns. This led to the development of the marital and business relationship, some of which are still in existence up to the present day.
Political Asylum of Heads of State
Jean Pierre Boyer was the first ruler from Haiti to seek refuge in Jamaica. Boyer got into office in 1818. During his reign, he managed to unify northern and southern Haiti. However, his demise came after he plunged Haiti into economic bankruptcy in 1825 after he agreed to pay the French government one hundred and fifty million francs to recognize the Haitian independence and regard it as a sovereign state.
Boyer was finally overthrown in 1843 after which he fled to Kingston, Jamaica where he lived a quiet life. Boyer was replaced by Riviere-Herard. However, Riviere-Herard reign over Haiti was short-lived as he too was overthrown in 1844 after his attempt to create a liberal constitution failed. During this era, the elite in Haiti controlled urban areas. The military, on the other hand, controlled the rural areas. Therefore, the fact that the president’s attempt to create a liberal constitution would give peasants the right to vote made him unpopular among the elite. After he was overthrown, Riviere-Herard also sought refuge in Kingston. Emperor Faustin Soulouque was also overthrown in December 1858 after his failed attempt to capture Hispaniola. He too sought refuge in Jamaica.
From this discussion, it is evident that Jamaica plays a critical role in Haitian migration. Jamaica became home to Haitian exiles and refugees. Heads of state who had been overthrown in Haiti during the 19th century also sought refuge in Jamaica. On these grounds, therefore, it is essential for Jamaica to be recognized as an emigration destination of Haitians. At the same time, intensive research needs to be conducted to determine the movements of their successors during the 18th and 19th century. This will create a deeper understanding of the Haitian migration and movement in the world.
Demisse, Fassil, Sandra Jackson and Abebe Zegeye. Geographies of Haitian Diaspora. New York: Routledge, 2011. Web.
“Jamaicans, Haitians not Eligible for 2012 Diversity Visa.” The Gleaner 2012. Web.