Traffickers Said To Abuse Brazil-Bound Haitians

By Dialogo
January 06, 2012

Haitians seeking refuge in Brazil are being abused and cheated on their way by traffickers in neighboring Peru and Bolivia, a human rights official in the northwestern Brazilian state of Acre said January 4.

Acre authorities meanwhile are expressing growing alarm over the influx of Haitians seeking a better life after fleeing their impoverished homeland devastated by an earthquake two years ago.

The influx, which began in February 2010 shortly after the quake, has been accelerating in recent days.

Between December 31 and January 2, at least 539 Haitians illegally entered Acre through the border with Peru, officials said.

“Right now, there are 1,250 Haitians claiming refugee status in (the border town of) Brasileia. Most do not meet the requirements but receive a two-year humanitarian visa with the right to work,” said Nilson Mourao, an official of the Justice and Human Rights group in Acre.

He said the migrants pay between $1,500 and $5,000 to traffickers in exchange for air passage from Port-au-Prince to Ecuador and Colombia from where they trek to Brazil via Peru and Bolivia.

“Many of the Haitians arrive sick, with evidence of ill-treatment on their skin but they refuse to press for action against the coyotes,” as the smugglers are known, Mourao said.

The official added that in Brasileia, a town of 20,000, the Haitians were being sheltered in holding centers where authorities are providing food and medical care.

Booming Brazil, Latin America’s dominant economy, has become the choice destination for Haitian and Bolivian migrants lured by ongoing massive infrastructure projects linked to the country’s hosting of the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brazil also leads the UN peacekeeping contingent in Haiti.