Two brothers who lost their mother and found themselves without anyone to take care of them. A blind elderly woman in a wheelchair who cannot receive medical treatment and has no one to help her with her daily life. Dozens of children who have been estranged from their mother, father, or both for years.
They are all Haitians who have parents living in Brazil. These immigrants, mostly living in Rio Grande do Sul, have been trying to bring family members to them for months, without success. Now they are entering Brazilian courts to be able to enter the country without needing a visa.
In the lawsuits, they argue that the process of obtaining the document – which should only be requested from the Brazilian embassy in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital – is fraught with obstacles, including allegations that third parties charge bribes to enter diplomatic representation.
On the last 26th, a flight with 183 Haitians arrived in Porto Alegre who managed to obtain the right to enter Brazil without a visa. Among them, 76 children, most of them without the company of their parents. The entry of the group was authorized after a collective action opened by an organization of Haitian immigrants from Rio Grande do Sul, the Association for Social Integration (Ainteso).
In the preliminary ruling, Judge Daniela Pertile Victoria declares that the exceptional measure is necessary to guarantee the right to family reunification, which is included in the Brazilian migration law of 2017.
Haitians are entitled to a special humanitarian reception visa in Brazil due to their particularly vulnerable situation since the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010. They can also bring their families, who must obtain a family reunification visa on along the same route.
In 2018, an order regulated the obtaining of this visa, deciding that it would only be granted by the embassy in Port-au-Prince. Meetings are organized by the IOM (International Organization for Migration, an agency linked to the UN) and are made online.
However, difficulties in obtaining the document are frequently reported, starting with the limit of 50 appointments per day. “The demand is significantly higher than this number, so the vacant positions opened daily are quickly filled,” Folha told IOM.
The pandemic created an even longer waiting list, as service for new requests was suspended in March 2020 and did not resume until June 2021.
Unable to plan the time, many Haitians end up hiring middlemen who charge dearly to make appointments for clients – there are reports that they place robots to make thousands of requests per minute, selling them. vacancies they get.
“There are people who have been asking for bribes to make an appointment for a few years. They charge an absurd amount and most of them don’t even make it, they take the money and disappear, ”explains Haitian James Derson Sene Charles, president of Ainteso. “There is also another group that sells their own visas, we don’t know how they got it, it’s not directly at the embassy. They charge US $ 2,000, US $ 3,000 [entre R$ 10.300 e R$15.400]. “
OIM claims the only amount charged for scheduling is a $ 60 (R $ 308) service charge, paid through a system-generated tab automatically, and that no one can change the order in the queue. According to the organization, the process should not be carried out by intermediaries and fraud attempts should be reported.
“Given the high demand for visas and the waiting time, it is possible that crooks will seek to deceive migrants and their families, promising to speed up programming. This is not even possible, because the planning system is fully electronic and is under the control of our headquarters in Geneva, ”the note said.
There are also reports of people charging up to US $ 500 (R $ 2,570) to allow entry to the embassy. The public prosecutor has already opened investigations into this matter, but has not informed Folha of the progress of the cases.
In the report, Itamaraty said that the Brazilian Embassy in Port-au-Prince and IOM have worked “to improve and streamline the processing of applications, in order to meet the growing demand for humanitarian hospitality visas and family reunification, without neglecting the procedures to ensure compliance with Brazilian immigration regulations and document security ”.
The memo cites online programming as a way to prevent fraud, by preventing the irregular transfer of passwords to third parties and by being managed by IOM headquarters in Geneva.
The ministry did not respond whether it received complaints of accusations from third parties of entering the building or whether there had been an investigation into it. He only said he was prepared to work with the Haitian police in the event that “any complaints, based on hard data” are investigated.
In addition to the lack of visas, the pandemic has imposed another obstacle to travel from Haiti to Brazil: the suspension of commercial flights between the two countries. As a result, Haitians band together for charter flights that bring their loved ones. Ainteso has already brought five so far.
The group, arrived on the 26th, traveled in an Airbus A330 chartered by the company Azul. The lawyer representing them in the class action, Paulo Duarte, traveled on the plane to guarantee their boarding and admission to Guarulhos airport.
Duarte had previously represented eight Haitians in similar individual actions and encountered obstacles for the federal police to admit his visa-free entry. “These are exceptional situations, so even with the court injunction there may be problems. I was the first to go downstairs to explain the case and make sure the decision was respected.
He said it was exciting to see the families reunite when they arrived. “It was beautiful. They celebrated, they sang. When we file a complaint, we collect names, data and numbers, but when you see that everyone has a face, it moves you.
Another lawyer from Rio Grande do Sul says she receives a flood of requests from Haitians with the same difficulties in meeting their family members. Débora Pinter, member of the board of directors of the Avocats sans frontières network, obtained an injunction for a father who wanted to bring his minor son and daughter after the death of their mother in Haiti.
“He was desperate because the children did not have close relatives who could care for them, and the interministerial orders issued by the government during the pandemic made the trip completely impossible,” said the lawyer, who has worked on the case voluntarily and managed, in May, an injunction allowing children to enter without a visa.
Pinter, who works in the towns of Itajaí and Vacaria, in Rio Grande do Sul, serves more than 200 Haitians in the same situation. They must also come to Brazil on a chartered flight, if they have positive responses to the court order.
“Our clients are women, husbands, but above all children who are in Haiti. There are fathers who don’t even know their son, because they came here to try to have a better life when he was still in their womb, he saved the money to bring his family, but now he can’t anymore, ”he said. “They are tired of being cheated by crooks. There are a lot of people who make money with it, people who promise to get a visa, but take the money and disappear. This is what is most.