A group of 28 organizations that work with human rights and migration wrote an open letter to the Brazilian government asking the country to facilitate the issue of humanitarian visas for Haitians as a matter of urgency, after the strong earthquake that hit the south of the country on the 14th. , leaving more than 2,200 dead and 130,000 homes damaged.
In the document, institutions such as Conectas Human Rights, Missão Paz, Pastoral dos Migrantes and the OAB/SP Immigrant and Refugee Rights Commission state that they have received several requests for support from people of that nationality affected by the catastrophe.
The letter was sent on the 25th to the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Carlos França, and of Justice, Anderson Torres, and cites rights provided for in Brazilian legislation, such as family protection and the humanitarian reception of Haitians.
Haitians are entitled to a special humanitarian welcome visa in Brazil, due to their especially vulnerable situation since the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010, leaving more than 200,000 dead. Those who already live in Brazil can also bring direct family members, who need to obtain a family reunion visa along the same route.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, the bureaucratic procedures for issuing these documents have been paralyzed, according to Livia Lenci, legal coordinator of Missão Paz, one of the signatories of the letter. “In theory, the means of arrival exist, but in practice they are unavailable. There are thousands of individuals trying to access the procedure and thousands of separated families, as they cannot even apply for a visa,” he says.
As shown in a Folha report published on July 30, Haitian immigrants are filing in court so that underage children and other family members can meet with them in Brazil without the need for a visa. A chartered flight with 183 people on board has already arrived in the country after a judge accepted the request.
In the lawsuits, they argue that the process for obtaining the document —which must only be requested at the Brazilian embassy in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital— is fraught with obstacles, including allegations that third parties charge bribes to enter the diplomatic representation.
After the last earthquake, Brazil sent emergency equipment and medicines to Haiti, as well as 32 firefighters to help rescue the victims. “The Brazilian government is closely following the unfolding of the earthquake that hit Haiti and reaffirms its firm commitment to continuing humanitarian aid to that country,” said Itamaraty, in a statement, after the tremor.
The entities that signed the open letter ask that the government’s response to the catastrophe include a “guarantee of urgent protection and logistical support for the family reunification of these immigrants in Brazil”, in addition to the immediate entry “of Haitians who want to rebuild their lives”.
They also request immigration regularization for immigrants of that nationality who entered Brazil during the period of closed borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a guarantee already granted to Venezuelans. The government did not reply to the document.
The earthquake, of magnitude 7.2, was registered at 8:29 am local time (9:29 am EDT) on Saturday (14), with an epicenter in the southwest of the island, 160 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Ten minutes later, there was a 5.2 magnitude replica.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a state of emergency, and PAHO, the arm of the World Health Organization in the Americas, said the country was facing an “especially serious situation” and asked the international community for help.