Floods leave Haitians stranded on the Peruvian-Brazilian border

[Translation of an article by the Spanish news agency Efe as published on February 17, 2012, by the Dominican web site Noticias Sin. See original here and related articles here, here, here and here.]

Lima, Perú – The 274 Haitian immigrants stranded in the Peruvian town of Iñapari find themselves among the victims of recent flooding in the area as they try to cross the border illegally into Brazil.

As the local parish priest, René Salízar, told Efe in a telephone conversation on Fiday, the Haitians arrived in Iñapari, in the southeast of the country, after following a route they consider the most economical, with the least migratory procedures to go through to get into Brazil.

The immigrants were evacuated to a college on high ground after spending more than a month in the Iñapari parish church.

Since they arrived in this small Peruvian settlement, the Caribbeans have eaten from a common pot, with donations from Brazil, which have since been interrupted because of the swollen rivers and the flooding.

“At this time there is no travel, you can’t get from one country to the other. But (the Haitians) still have food and they are cooking,” Salízar told Efe.

The Peruvian Defensoría del Pueblo (Office of the Ombudsman) today expressed concern over the vulnerability of the Haitians, among whom are a five-month-old baby and a ten-year-old girl.

The assistant for Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities of that office, Gisella Vignolo, declared in a statement that “the fundamental rights of this population, who till now have survived on charity,” have been put at risk.

“We consider it to be of greatest importance that the Foreign Relations Ministry establish a channel for dialogue with the authorities of the countries involved in this problem (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia, among others) with the goal of offering a coordinated, joint solution,” Vignolo stated.

The arrival of the Haitians changed the life of the small settlement of Iñapari, with its population of around 2,000 and with water available for only two hours a day.

According to Salízar, most of the Haitians do not want to work in Peru and spend their time “eating, sleeping and playing.”

On January 12, the Brazilian government ruled that its embassy in Port au Prince would grant a maximum of 100 work visas a month to Haitian immigrants.

Last year Brazil granted work visas to some 1,600 of the close to 4,000 Haitians who arrived after the 2010 earthquake, according to information from the Justice Ministry of that country.

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