Port-au-Prince, Sep 28 (EFE).- The migrant crisis on the Mexico-United States border has cast fresh light on the exodus of people from Haiti and the long, dangerous journeys through the Americas that thousands from the crisis-stricken island nation have embarked on over the last decade.
Besides traditional destinations such as the Dominican Republic and the United States, Haitians were increasingly drawn to countries like Chile and Brazil during the South American economic boom.
But the pandemic and the tightening of immigration policies, especially in Chile, has forced thousands of Haitians on a perilous journey north toward the US.
A COUNTRY IN CONSTANT CRISIS
Migration flows “will not stop” as long as the gap between rich and poor countries persists, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry warned the United Nations on Saturday.
Haitians are fleeing the dire socio-economic crisis in their home country, which in August was further exacerbated by a deadly earthquake and a tropical storm, researcher Schwarz Coulange Méroné told Efe.
For many of the roughly one million Haitians residing in the US, Joe Biden’s administration signaled a potential easing of migration policy.
DRAWN TO THE USA
In August, the US decided to extend the Temporary Protection Status for Haitians until 2023, which could increase the beneficiaries from 40,000 people in early 2021 to 140,000, according to migrant rights groups.
Washington, however, warned that the rules would only apply to Haitians who were already in the US before July 29. Those entering the country after that date have been automatically deported.
Most of the Haitians arriving at the border between Mexico and the US have spent years in other countries such as Chile, where hundreds of thousands have lived over the past five years.
The great migration wave to Chile occurred between 2016 and 2017, when Haitians could enter as tourists without a visa.
But the huge protests that rocked the Andean country in 2019, the largest since the end of the dictatorship in 1990, damaged Chile’s appeal as a destination for migrants.
When Covid-19 measures were lifted this year, Chile’s interior ministry registered a huge exodus of Haitians — around 3,000 so far this year, 81% more compared to 2020.
THE PERILS OF THE DARIEN GAP
Every migrant who reaches the US border on foot from South America must traverse the Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle that separates Colombia from Central America. It is a hotbed for militias and human trafficking.
The number of people making the perilous crossing has increased from 1,071 in January to reach 25,000 in the month of August, Owen Breuil, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) spokesperson on the Darien region, told Efe.
In 2021, some 70,000 migrants traveled through the jungle, of whom more than 60% were Haitians.
“Anyone who crosses that jungle should be recognized as a hero, you cannot pass that jungle without God’s help,” John, a 36-year-old Haitian who decided to leave Chile after failing to get legal paperwork, told Efe.