Brazil seeks agreements with foreign intelligence agencies to bar Haitians

Some argue for open borders

[Translation of an article from the Brazilian website Carta Maior for December 27. See original here.]

by Najla Passos

Brasilia – The Agência Brasileira de Informação and the Polícia Federal are seeking the cooperation of the secret services of other Latin American countries in an attempt to break up the gangs responsible for facilitating the illegal entry of Haitians into the country across the borders with Bolivia and Peru.

“We have to put an end to the trafficking of persons and keep the criminal activity of the  ‘coiotes’ from becoming established in the region,” says Míriam Medeiros da Silva, coodinator general of the Secretaria de Acompanhamento e Estudos Institucionais of the Gabinete de Segurança Institucional of the presidency.

’Coiotes’ [coyotes in Spanish] are the operators of the illegal immigration routes from Haiti to Brazil. Their main route passes through the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor, and crosses Ecuador and Bolivia to arrive in Brazil.

According to Míriam, the coiotes charge an average of 2,000 dollars for the immigrants, who are subjected to the most dangerous of conditions during their trip and their stay in neighboring countries.

“Accounts by Haitians who arrive in the country reveal that they are assaulted and extorted during the trip here, principally in Bolivia. So Brazil seems a paradise to them, with extremely welcoming people,” says Senator Aníbal Diniz .

According to the ministry of foreign relations, the coiotes’ activities are facilitated by the fact that, in contrast with Brazil, the countries along the way do not require entrance visas for the Haitians. The exception is the Dominican Republic, which has deported Haitians who enter the country illegally.

“Since February we have been trying to solve the problem. We had promising talks with Peru, which made a commitment to require a visa, but Ecuador refuses to require a visa for any immigrants,” said Rodrigo do Amaral Souza, director of the Departamento de Imigração of the ministry.

An open border

The executive secretary of the Ministry of Justice and president of the Comitê Nacional para Refugiados, Luiz Paulo Teles Barreto, stated that the gang members are the same coiotes who make a living transporting Latin Americans to the United States under such dangerous conditions that they sometimes end up dying.

Barreta points out that, in addition to the Haitians, they have offered their services to other foreigners who desire to come into the country, like Asians and Arabs. “With the growth in the Brazilian economy, the coiotes are exploring this new route for the trafficking of persons. There is an urgent need to find a solution to the problem,” he said.

One factor is the increase in the export of Brazilian meat to Arab countries, which require that animals be slaughtered according to the norms established by Islam. “Many Afghans and Pakistanis are therefore coming to work in Brazil and, often, they ask for a visa only when they have already arrived and are working,” the executive secretary explains.

Humanitarian aid

The illegal immigration of Haitians was the topic of a public hearing in the senate during the last week of work for the parliamentarians before the holidays. In the debate, Senator Cristóvam Buarque argued that the country should make an effort so that in the future it won’t need to control the borders. “If we make it easy for merchandise, why can’t we make it easy for persons?” he asked.

Senator Jorge Vianna, whose brother, Tião Viana, is governor or Acre, has already suggested that the Brazilian government institute a policy of admitting between 10,000 and 30,000 Haitians legally, by the front door, guaranteeing their safety and without encouraging the criminal activities of the coiotes. “It would be a great humanitarian gesture,” he argued.

Senator Aloysio Nunes proposed revising the immigration law immediately to make it more current and to facilitate the legal entry into the country of victims of natural or economic disasters, as is the case with Haitians. “These days Latinos come to Brazil as Africans go to Europe, to look for a better life,” he declared.