The recent transfer of some 800 Haitians from the Amazonian state of Acre to Sao Paulo city has left them in great uncertainty about their future in Brazil, where the islanders keep arriving after bribing their way through several countries of the region while dealing with poverty and the eternal threat of being robbed.
After the shelter was closed down April 10 at Brasileia where the Haitians stayed who had crossed the border that Brazil shares with Peru and Bolivia, the regional government chartered buses to take the refugees to Sao Paulo, whose municipal government said it was never informed of their arrival. The result was described as "chaotic" by Fr. Paolo Parise, a priest on the Pastoral Migrant Commission that welcomed the hundreds of Haitians who poured into Sao Paulo a couple of weeks ago.
In a communique, the Sao Paulo municipal government said it was "totally surprised" and criticized as "irresponsible" the Acre state government for sending the Haitians there unannounced.
Though the Haitians were known to be in Sao Paulo for several days, Holy Week festivities got in the way of "offering a bed and meals" and medical care to those in the improvised, overcrowded shelter set up at the Pastoral institution, which is now the local government's priority.
For its part, the Acre administration said the immigrant shelter in Brasileia had been closed due to the recent cresting of the Madeira River, which cut off several cities.
However, "they're taking the trip they always wanted to," Nilson Mourau, secretary of justice and human rights for the state of Acre, said to justify the controversial transfer of the immigrants in Brasileia to Sao Paulo, adding that "for Brasileia, a city of 20,000 inhabitants, 2,500 immigrants add up to almost 20 percent of the population," which creates an "extremely complex situation."
As for the Haitians, who upon entering the country were granted documentation legalizing their presence, they insist that all they want is a work permit to recover the almost $5,000 spent on the trip from Haiti and to send money home to their families.
Since the devastating 2010 earthquake on the island, Brazil has been one of the preferred destinations of the Haitian diaspora.
About their travels to get here, a young immigrant told Efe that "at each border we paid off the cops, and if you didn't have anything, you were deported immediately." EFE