The State Department has found no evidence that Haitian citizens who flee to the United States are mistreated by their government when forced to return home, according to an "unclassified" document made public yesterday.
The in-house memorandum added there is no evidence that the thousands of Haitians who have fled to the United States since 1972 left their homeland for political reasons.
"Most 'returnees' were quite emphatic about the economic motivation for their departure. Many asserted that they had never had a job in Haiti. None stated . . . that political reasons caused them to leave, said the report, written by a six-member State Department team sent to Haiti last May to learn the fate of "returnees."
"We found no significant indication of mistreatment of 'returnees' because of their journey to the United States," said the report.
The report, based on interviews with 86 out of a total of 600 'returnees' is bound to add to a growing dispute over this nation's treatment of nearly 9,000 Haitians who, since the early 1970s, have drifted to south Florida shores abroad small boats.
Supporters call the Haitians "political refugees" who fled their land only to be mistreated by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials. The Haitian "boat people" have been denied work permits and most of them threatened with deportation.
INS officials argued that the Haitians are no different from illegal Mexican immigrants who cross the U.S. border on foot in search of economic opportunity.
Supporters of the Haitian "boat people" argued prior to the departure of the State Department team that its investigation in Haiti would prove fruitless. Most stuck by that view yesterday.
"We have serious questions about some of the State Department's findings," said Amy Young-Anawaty, a lawyer for the Washington-based International Human Rights Law Group.
"On the one hand, they said they could find no evidence of political persecution. But, on the other, they said that the case of each Haitain refugee has to be judged very, very carefully. Our argument has been that Haitain requests for political asylum have been rejected en masse."
Her group has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. The complaint accuses the United States of violating Haitian human rights.