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Chile Sends Haitian Migrants Home Under Voluntary Program

By Rachel George

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1,087 migrants have enrolled in Chile’s voluntary program that offers a free return to their home country in Haiti, after an unsuccessful migration experience.

 

Chile has the fastest-growing immigrant community in the country, according to Efe, a Spanish news site. The Chilean Air Force flight is the first of many planned trips to return individuals back to their homeland. The flight flew out from Santiago last Wednesday with 176 Haitians aboard.

 

In the last few years, 150,000 Haitians have come over to Chile seeking better housing and work opportunities. But many did not get the experience they hoped for.

 

While in Chile, many Haitians migrants expressed not being completely embraced by the culture and people of Chile. They dealt with obstacles such as language barriers, finding work, and the cold weather of Chile and racism.

 

According to the Miami Herald, Haitians also experienced police brutality and mistreatment within workspaces.

47 percent of the people in Chile believed Haitian migrants were taking work opportunities from the natives, according to a survey. 68 percent called for stricter immigration laws.


 

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera heard their responses and acted, presenting a proposal ridding of temporary visas, preventing Haitians from moving there permanently, in April. He declared the regularization of immigrants’ status, required Haitian citizens to present a tourist visa, allowing them to stay in Chile for only 30 days, and opted for special entry for Venezuelan migrants.

 

The policy has caused a lot of tension for many organizations who assist in immigration repatriation. Chile’s volunteer program has one catch: migrants cannot return to Chile for at least nine years. Chile’s Jesuit Centre for Migrants director Jose Tomas Vicuna wrote via Twitter, “176 people leave with significant emotional baggage from what they have experienced in Chile.”

 

The National Platform of Haitian Organisations in Chile called the program “an enforced deportation of people” and accused their government of embracing policies were “racist,” according to Channel NewsAsia.

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