Friday, February 10, 2012

Haitians Search for Work in Brazil

BBCNews: Haitians in Brazil Get Visas but Border Checks Increase
NYT: Haitians Take Arduous Path to Brazil, and Jobs
Washington Post: Brazil’s Rousseff: Thousands of Visas for Haiti, Plans to Draw Down Peacekeeping Troops

Following the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many Haitians have travelled to Brazil in search of work. They have made a dangerous journey through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia—often at the mercy of human traffickers and corrupt government officials—to arrive in Brazil’s border towns in the Amazon. After arriving, many of these Haitians have been stranded while waiting for the government to grant them humanitarian visas to work in Brazil.

As Haitian immigration to Brazil continues to grow, Brazil’s government has announced that it will grant residence and work visas to approximately 4,000 Haitians already in the country, including Haitians who are in the country illegally. During a recent trip to Haiti, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff promised to issue an additional 1,200 visas each year to Haitians over the next 5 years. However, Brazilian officials have announced that, from now on, Haitians seeking the work visas promised by President Rousseff will need to apply for one of one hundred work visas available per month at the Brazilian embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haitians will not be allowed to enter Brazil without a visa. By requiring visas to enter the country, the government hopes to cut down on the cost of feeding and housing Haitians at the border while their visa applications are processed. Brazil has not dealt with an immigration crisis in the past. Before its economic success in the last decade, workers generally sought to leave the country, rather than enter it.

Although economic growth in Brazil has slowed, the country still requires workers for a number of infrastructure and building projects, and Haitians are beginning to fill vacancies in these sectors. Manual laborers are in high demand to complete many of the construction projects that are planned for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. With unemployment at a historic low of 5.2 percent and salaries increasing for poor Brazilians, it has proven difficult to find Brazilians willing to leave their stable jobs to fill these positions. Furthermore, the current workforce is engaged in massive projects already underway, like building two dams in the upper Amazon River Basin, leaving few workers for other enterprises.

Employers in the border towns and throughout Brazil are, therefore, hiring a number of Haitian workers. Some companies, like a swimming pool manufacturer based in southern Santa Catarina State, are sending managers to the border towns to hire Haitians. Many Haitians are travelling to São Paulo in search of work—a city that serves as the financial capital of Brazil and is often compared to New York City.

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