Haitians, Brazil, and a Humanitarian Crisis

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BRASILEIA, Brazil — An issue that has been ongoing since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti has finally come to an end in Brazil. Or has it?

Since the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, Brazil decided to welcome Haitians to their country with the creation of a ‘humanitarian visa.’ This visa would allow Haitians to seek refuge in Brazil without being deported, while applying for refugee status so they could begin to start new lives for themselves.

Originally the idea seemed flawless, yet it has been anything but that since.

Thousands of Haitians have since received these humanitarian visas, many of whom have bypassed the Brazilian embassy in Haiti and instead traveled through Ecuador, which requires no visa for entry. The reason Haitians have avoided the embassy is due to slow processing fees and excessive requirements, some of which include unexplained middlemen fees and resumes to give preference to those who are “qualified.” Yet, isn’t this a ‘humanitarian’ visa?

The situation got worse once the Haitians arrived.

A refugee camp was set up in the small town of Brasiléia in the state of Acre, where hundreds of Haitians have since sought shelter. Close to 1,000 immigrants live in this camp at any given time, inside a warehouse that is built for less than 200 people.

The conditions have been described as extremely unhygienic. There are 10 lavatories and 8 showers, and no soap or toothpaste is provided. Sewage leaks are common and fetid water spreads throughout the warehouse daily.  The migrants sleep crowded and often in sweltering heat. The local hospital reported that 90 percent of Haitians in the camp have diarrhea and abdominal pain. On top of all that, more migrants are arriving every day.

As if this situation wasn’t enough, the crisis has heightened in the past few months.

The close-by Madeira River flooded, blocking off the only road that connects the state where Brasiléia is located to the rest of Brazil. Food and fuel supplies have dwindled substantially as well as other general social services, yet migrants continue to flood into the refugee camp. The government has since declared a state of emergency.

There were 2,600 refugees living in the camp at the time, in squalid conditions. A few weeks ago, the Brazilian Air Force airlifted 2,000 of these refugees out of the area, transferring them to a shelter in the state capital of Rio Branco. The rest were left to fend for themselves when the state government announced that the refugee camp in Brasiléia would be closing for good.

Acre’s state secretary of social development, Antonio Torres, stated, “From now on, refugees will be required to travel on their own to Rio Branco. They have come this far. I have no doubt they will figure out how to navigate another 185 miles to the temporary shelter. We can’t be responsible for them any longer.”

Many think that this is Brazil’s attempt to shirk itself of its responsibilities to the Haitian refugees and leave them to fend for themselves.

More than 20,000 Haitian migrants have crossed the border and more continue to cross each day, prompting many to believe that the problems are not going to end here.

Sources: Vice, Global Research
Photo: Spero News

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