Chile sends planeload of Haitians home, with return stop for Chileans in Venezuela

World

(Reuters) – Chile is returning a second planeload of Haitian immigrants to their native country on Monday and will make use of the return flight from the Caribbean island to bring home Chileans stranded in crisis-stricken Venezuela.

After dropping off nearly 180 Haitian citizens in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the Chilean air force plane will stop in Caracas to pick up nearly 100 Chileans and fly them back to Santiago, interior minister Andres Chadwick told reporters.

As oil-rich Venezuela’s economy has sunk into crisis under President Nicolas Maduro, as many as 1.9 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015, according to the United Nations.

“This will be a humanitarian flight on the way there, and on the way back,” Chadwick said.

A total of 1,600 Haitians have signed up for the flights back to Haiti from Chile, part of a program labeled as “humanitarian flights” by the government of center-right President Sebastian Pinera but criticized by migrant groups as “forced deportations.”

The policy is aimed at Haitians who have struggled to find work in one of Latin America’s richest economies, in some cases lured to the Andean nation by people traffickers with false promises.

Earlier this month, 176 Haitians returned to Haiti aboard another Chilean air force flight.

The cost-free return trip requires those leaving to sign a declaration that they will not return for nine years, and asks they take immediate family with them.

The policy has generated controversy among some migrant groups, rights campaigners and academics. Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries, blighted by natural disasters, political upheaval and poor security.

Chile’s government has said that there are approximately 112,000 Haitians in Chile, or about 10 percent of the total immigrant population.

Reporting by Marion Giraldo, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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