Saturday, January 07, 2012

Haitians Heading to Brazil

Today's New York Times brought a bit of news I hadn't read anywhere before, which is that Haitians have begun to emigrate from their still post-earthquake ravaged nation to Brazil, which over the last decade, under center-left governments, has become an economic powerhouse. The self-described "Country of the Future" is now one of the countries of today, with 5.2% unemployment drawing not only educated professionals from Europe, Latin America and the United States, but laborers from across the developing world. 

According to Simon Romero's Times article, "Haitians Take Arduous Path to Brazil, and Jobs," around 4,000 Haitians arrived in Brazil since the 2010 earthquake, usually traveling via Ecuador, which has looser vias policies, and have thus arrived at border posts at the edge of Brazil's Amazonian states of Acre and Amazonas.  Romero states that some of the Haitians have been robbed during their journey to Brazil and the wait for legal entry to Brazil has placed some in conditions not unlike what they experienced at hom, but the immigrants are willing to take the risk because of the continuing dire conditions in Haiti, where rebuilding in the capital and other devastated regions has moved at a glacial pace, and because of the job opportunities at Brazil's hydroelectric plants and in its burgeoning industries. I would imagine that the new infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are also going to provide opportunities, though despite its economic advances, still has a large population of impoverished and barely working-class people, especially across its historically economically disadvantaged northeast.

From Douglas Engle's NY Times clip
Brazil has provided the new arrivals with vaccinations, clean water, and two meals a day at the border posts like Brasiléia, where they stay until granted humanitarian visas, but I imagine if the flow of Haitians and other potential immigrants increases, Brazil will begin to step up border security and patrols. The video clip by Romero and Douglas Engle that accompanies Romero's article says that the local reception of the Haitians has been fairly positive, though a Brazilian also notes local alarm at and some prejudice towards the large number of arrivals, because they're foreign, speak a different language and are "black," though he, like Romero, notes the Haitians have caused "no problems." Some Haitian immigrants have already settled in cities like Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, and Porto Velho, while others are being courted by companies located in states such as Santa Catarina, in Brazil's rich southern region, and others, like one polyglot cited by Romero, hope to settle in São Paulo, the center for Brazilian industry.

From Douglas Engle's NY Times clip
Jay Forte writes in the Rio Times that Brazil's government has issued new limited work visas for the Haitians, on humanitarian grounds, thus allowing the immigrants work in Brazil instead of remaining stranded at the country's northwestern ports of entry. The immigrants will receive a Cédula de Identidade do Estrangeiro (CIE), or Foreign Identity Card.  Brazil has already spent about 1 billion reais, or about $US 557 million on relief and reconstruction since the Haitian earthquake occurred on January 12, 2011.  The visas will be granted through the Haitian embassy in Port-au-Prince, and allow up to 1,200 Haitians to enter per year. Once they have their status legalized, Haitians will be able to bring immediate family members such as spouses or partners, parents, and children under the age of 24.  According to Forte, in 2009 former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva signed a law granting amnesty to all foreign nationals living without documentation in Brazil, with the possibility of residency status in two years; among the largest groups of undocumented residents in Brazil are, in descending order, nationals from China, Peru, Bolivia, and Korea.

From Douglas Engle's NY Times clip
The Haitian immigrants Haitians are choosing Brazil, as both Romero and Forte note, at the very moment that Brazil is withdrawing the last of its peacekeeping forces, initially sent after the coup, allegedly orchestrated by the United States and France, that ousted democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Brazil's forces, which anchored the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (UNSTAMIH), had number as many as 2,200, the largest of any of the countries contributing military personnel, but with the expiration of the UN mandate, extended to October 2011, Brazil's and the other countries' forces were set to leave. I am curious to see how Brazil responds to the Haitian immigrants over the longer term, and whether the new government of Dilma Rousseff, a member of the Worker's Party and ideologically to the left of former president Lula, will continue to show the same openness to immigrants, especially if the economy loses its punch or if the volume of those seeking jobs dramatically increases. I also wonder whether the United States, long the primary destination, alongside Haiti's neighbor the Dominican Republic, of Haitian immigrants, will lose its appeal to Brazil over the long haul. The ties between the US and Haiti date back to the American Revolution, but since the Haitian Revolution, the US has repeatedly and often disastrously meddled in Haiti's internal and external affairs.

No comments:

Post a Comment