Chile’s "Humanitarian Plan for Orderly Return" is receiving criticism from Haitian residents in the South American country who say the supposed humanitarian initiative is a form of covert deportation.
The Chilean government is planning to unveil the program Wednesday but the approximately 120,000 Haitians in the country are crying foul, saying that the to-be-introduced program is just a way to expel them from the country without cause.
Details of the ‘orderly return’ plan have not been fully revealed, but Chile’s Ministry of the Interior website states that foreigners, not limited to Haitians, can “voluntarily” sign up to be returned to their country of origin.
The ministry site reads that the plan “consists of the transfer of foreigners to their country of origin who are in Chile on a regular or irregular basis and who decide to return voluntarily, individually or as a family group.” Those who want to ‘participate’ in the program must not have any pending legal procedures and must be at least 18 years old.
The Sociocultural Organization of Haitians in Chile (Oschec) has also expressed concern about the program that it says would transfer Haitians back to their country of origin using military airplanes and would not allow them back into Chile for at least nine years.
Line François, an Oschec representative, says the measures is "a form of deportation, not goodwill." He argues that the Chilean government should develop programs for job placement and integration for Haitians, several of whom only moved to Chile last April.
Chile's right-wing government headed by President Sebastian Piñera has since decreed all Haitians, along with Venezuelans, can only enter the country with a visa. Both nationalities were previously permitted to travel to Chile and later apply for a visa after they had found work. Since April, tourist visas for Haitians have also been limited to 30 days.
Piñera, who has been accused of appointing neoliberal nationalists to his cabinet, explaining his position at the time: "You cannot continue with what has happened so far. There is immense illegal immigration, that it is not safe, that it is not orderly and that harms immigrants."
The Miami Herald reports that in 2010 Chile received 81 permanent residency requests from Haitians. That number grew to 3,646 in 2016, and work visa requests rose to 35,277 from 8,400 in 2015, according to Social Development Minister Marcos Barraza.
Thousands of Haitians continue to leave their home country, which has been plagued by a series of economic shocks since a magnitude 7 earthquake hit the island in 2010 earthquake and killed over 200,000 people according to the Haitian government. Many migrants say they were initially planning to travel to the United States, but after President Donald Trump announced his administration would not renew the 46,000 Haitians currently on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), they sought refuge in Chile which had previously gain a reputation for welcoming immigrants.
Spokesman of the National Coordinator of Immigrants, Rodolfo Noriega, branded the policy as a form of "covert deportation."
Pablo Valenzuela of the Jesuit Migrants Service told local media outlet La Tercera the measure "raises suspicions of racism and does not look good for public policies that promote integration. This looks to return (Haitians) in a supposedly humanitarian way, but what it does is to get rid of the problem."
However, Undersecretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla, said that the program "has nothing to do with a sanction, but has to do with voluntary feelings (of Haitians), that is why a document is signed giving up traveling to Chile for a nine-year period."