A Chilean Air Force (FACH) airplane took off from Santiago Wednesday with 175 Haitians onboard on their way back home in what some regarded as a “humanitarian flight” and others dubbed a “forced deportation.”
Some 165.000 Haitians have migrated to Chile in the past two years, of whom 1,087 have signed up for the flights home, the Chilean interior ministry said in a statement.
President Sebastián Piñera's move to bring down the number of migrants required applicants to sign a declaration that they will not return for nine years and to take any immediate family with them.
The government said the policy was aimed at those who had struggled to find work in one of Latin America's richest economies, in some cases having been lured by people traffickers with false promises.
But the policy has generated controversy. The National Platform of Haitian Organisations in Chile, which represents 30 separate refugee groups, spoke of an enforced deportation of people and accused Chile's government of adopting racist policies.
Chile's interior ministry rejected those allegations saying assisted voluntary returns are supported by the United Nations and that migrants from Colombia were requesting similar assistance.
There were originally 176 Haitians scheduled to board the FACH's Boeing 767, but one man changed his mind at the airport, unwilling to leave his Chilean girlfriend behind, it was reported.