A group of 23 Haitian migrants were stranded Sunday at Santiago's Arturo Merino Benítez international airport where they have filed for refugee status but nevertheless fear local authorities might deport them back to their country of origin where all lives are “at-risk” due to the ongoing crisis, according to Rodolfo Noriega of the local Migrant Ombudsman's Office.
Noriega pointed out that the situation had worsened after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, in addition to two attacks on the Prime Minister, threats against the Senate's Speaker and other issues facing the Caribbean country, which is to some extent under control of criminal gangs who manage the supply of gasoline, food, medicine and electricity.
The Chilean official insisted the Haitians held at the airport have the intention of entering the country and that some of them have been there for more than a month and have applied for refuge, but the police are treating them as tourists, asking for a consular permit, which is ridiculous, because the consulate has not dealt with visas since the pandemic. The Chilean consulate is also closed due to the situation in Haiti, Noriega was quoted as saying.
Noriega maintains the migrants should be allowed in because when they arrived they made it known that they were coming because of the risk situation that every person in Haiti has. He added that Chile recognizes this situation. The United States representative in Haiti stated that the return or repatriation of people to Haiti was criminal, Noriega further explained.
The 23 Haitians could not be deported after Chilean courts ruled not to innovate, after accepting an appeal on behalf of the asylum seekers. Many of them are those who were expelled from the US and others who were stranded by the pandemic. In their precarious Spanish, they expressed their intention to request refuge in Chile, noting that they come to seek safety in this country where they have family ties. and other roots, some are even parents of Chileans, Noriega said as he accused the Chilean Civil Investigative Police (PDI) of breaching ”the Refugee Protection Law (Law 20,430) by preventing them from entering.
Noriega insisted the PDI's handling of the situation kept the migrants from formalizing their request for refuge, which must necessarily be done before Immigration, which does not have an office at the airport. He also pointed out that in previous occasions the PDI has expelled some migrants even against the ruling of the Supreme Court and that there was an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office for the crime of contempt against the members of the PDI.
The official also highlighted the conditions in which they were being held at the airport, without access to a shower, meager food, no medical attention and banned from contacting their relatives.
At the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, Chile suffered a migration crisis due to the arrival of massive flights from Haiti, but Noriega pointed out that today is not the same situation. They come as residents, not as tourists, and they sell them the round trip flight because the airlines ensure their return, the companies wouldn't mind if they were sent back, Noriega said. He added these people had bought expensive round trip tickets due to the shortage of flights.
Noriega also pointed out Haitians have sought to reach Chile in order to guarantee their safety and life, even more so after the closure of the border with the Dominican Republic.” Haitians account for 12.5% of the total of 1,462,103 foreign migrants who lived in Chile as of 2020.