(Tabatinga, Brazil) August 28, 2012 — From January to July this year, about 2,000 trafficked migrants from Haiti stranded in the Brazilian border town of Tabatinga received emergency humanitarian assistance, thanks to the solidarity of several organizations, religious congregations and Jesuit institutions both in Latin America and around the world.
After a July of 2011 visit to Tabatinga, which borders both Peru and Colombia in Brazil's northwest Amazon rainforest, Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America and Caribbean (JRS LAC) produced a report warning about the difficult humanitarian situation facing Haitians in this isolated area.
At the same time, JRS LAC initiated, in collaboration with the Brazilian Diocese of Alto Solimões and in coordination with the Jesuit Province of the Amazon, several projects oriented towards the pastoral and humanitarian care of the Haitians, who were forced to flee their country following the earthquake on January 12, 2010.
Within the framework of these projects, a community restaurant was built to provide food to the migrants twice a day. Financial support was provided to families with children, allowing families to rent homes.
Both JRS and the Government of Brazil provided aid to these stranded Haitians to pay their travel by boat to Manaus, to allow them to register for humanitarian residency documents, thus enabling them to start the normalization of their status in Brazil.
These programs allowed JRS to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Tabatinga and and support better living conditions and job opportunities in Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amanzonas state, for the displaced and trafficked Haitians now living in Tabatinga.
The Brazilian government decided to regularize "for humanitarian reasons" all Haitian citizens who had entered their territory before January 12, 2012. At the beginning of April, the government also granted amnesty to 363 Haitians who had been stranded in Tabatinga and extended the right to enter Brazil under the same humanitarian visa to another 245 Haitian displaced who had been stuck in Iñapari, a Peruvian city bordering Brazil on the Acre River.
However, since May, the Brazilian authorities have closed their borders in the Amazon and the Rio Acre, where hundreds of Haitians remain stranded.
Due to the shortage of funds, the pastoral care of the Diocese of Alto Solimões and JRS LAC are focusing on providing food to migrants in Tabatinga.
by Wooldy Edson Louidor
Jesuit Refugee Service Latin America and Caribbean
Read an earlier story about Haitians in Brazil by clicking here.