Haitian refugees in Brazil

Close to 500 undocumented Haitians enter Brazil in three days

Brazil has issued humanitarian visas to hundreds of Haitians

[Translation of an article by the Spanish news agency Efe as published on January 2 in Listín Diario of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. See original here and related article here.]

Some 500 undocumented Haitian immigrants entered the Brazilian city of Brasileia, on the Bolivian border, in the last three days of 2011, joining the approximately 700 who live in an improvised shelter in this Amazonian city of 20,000 inhabitants, official sources reported yesterday.

The immigrants arrived in mass over a few days in the midst of rumors that Brazil is studying the possibility of restricting the entry of Haitians across the Amazonian borders beginning this year, a source in the government of the Brazilian state of Acre told Efe.

In the past two years, since the earthquake of 2010, Brazil has taken in hundreds of Haitians who entered the country illegally in search of better living conditions and has given them humanitarian visas, since they cannot be considered political refugees or to be seeking asylum..

“The Haitians seem to have been gathering on the other side of the border and entered as a group out of fear they would be prevented from entering Brazil,” the source added.

The government of Acre, on the Bolivian border in the extreme west of Brazil, reported that it had sent food and water to aid the immigrants, who settled in the plazas of Brasileia, since this small city does not have facilities to assist them.

“The situation is complicated by the fact that the state had already constructed a shelter for the immigrants that turned out to be too small for the 700 Haitians who were already in Brasileia,” according to the source consulted by Efe.

The adjunct secretary for Justice and Human Rights in Acre, José Henrique Corinto de Moura, traveled to Brasileia on Monday to coordinate aid for the numerous undocumented immigrants.

Despite the fact that the National Committee for Refugees of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice admitted last December that it was studying measures to staunch the flow of immigrants across the Amazonian borders, so far no decision has been announced.

According to the international organization Jesuit Refugee Service of Latin America, different networks dealing and trafficking in persons recruit Haitian citizens with promises of work in countries like Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, who, once abandoned, end up traveling to Brazil in search of better living conditions.

In 2010 alone, Brazil issued 475 humanitarian visas to Haitian immigrants but the number of undocumented immigrants increased significantly in 2011.

The government of Acre estimates that at least 2,300 Haitians entered the state last year.

In addition to humanitarian visas, the immigrants receive documents that permit them to work in Brazil and some are sent to larger cities like Porto Velho and Manaos, also on the Amazon, where the opportunities for employment are greater.

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