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  • "Every time I look at my daughter, I think about Joane, about life, and everything that has happened to me," the immigrant father said. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 May 2018

The death of a young immigrant made front-page news as Chilean authorities rushed to accuse her of neglecting her infant child.

The story of one Haitian is making waves in Chile as the grieving immigrant widower struggles to provide for his only daughter while juggling job expectations and battling racial discrimination.

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The death of Joane Florvil, 27, made front-page news as Chilean authorities rushed to accuse the immigrant mother of neglecting her young infant daughter, who police said she abandoned. The child was taken by National Child Services (Sename), becoming a ward of the state.

Her surviving husband Wilfred Fidele, 35, is now speaking out to set the record straight.

Fidele explained that on August 29 the couple had entrusted their child to their neighbor, who was also the girl's godmother, but she left the child unattended.

On realizing their mistake, the parents rushed to the Office of Rights Protection to plead their case. However, there were no translation services available and the parents were unable to communicate the situation.

The baby was transferred to a foster home, after which the mother's health declined. She was talken to California, in the United States, but died just one month later from kidney failure.

A misfiled document led to a lengthy legal battle which culminated in Fidele regaining custody of his daughter. However, until last month, his wife's body was kept locked away in the Legal Medical Service, with restrictions prohibiting him from laying her to rest.

Fidele said: "Every time I look at my daughter, I think about Joane, about life, and everything that has happened to me.

"Chile taught me all the bad things that I never lived in my country... Chile taught me misery," he continued, adding that if he had the chance to live in any other nation, he would take it.

"I cannot blame the officials for what happened to me... If someone is responsible it's the person who accused Joane of leaving the baby in the office and who caused my daughter to end up in a home, far from her mother.

"I am not angry or upset, but I'll never forget what happened; never."

Chile is home to at least one million Haitian immigrants who suffer harsh discrimination and racism in their search for stable employment.

Last month, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced a sudden change to immigration policies, requiring all Haitians to return home, complete visa applications at the Chilean embassy, and wait to be accepted.

The new measure attempts to quell the flood of undocumented immigrants traveling without passports. Haitians are now permitted only 30 days for a tourist visa, which prevents holders from working or earning money in Chile.

Temporary residency for humanitarian visas, limited to one year, will be awarded to only 10,000 Haitians, with preference given to residents with higher education or families.

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