HomeNewsBriefHuman Smugglers Continue to Cash In on Haitian Migrants
BRIEF

Human Smugglers Continue to Cash In on Haitian Migrants

BOLIVIA / 14 SEP 2020 BY CHRIS DALBY EN

A sophisticated human smuggling ring that illegally moved migrants from Haiti across a number of Latin American countries into Chile shows that the Caribbean nation’s crisis remains a gold mine for criminal gangs.

In August, Bolivian authorities caught and deported at least 142 Haitian migrants, while at least 22 more were arrested in Chile. In September, both countries initiated an investigation and have since moved against the alleged people smugglers. Bolivian authorities arrested three Haitian nationals with legal residency suspected of partially organizing the scheme, as well as Bolivian drivers who transported the migrants, according to BioBio Chile citing the Attorney General’s Office.

At a September 5 press conference, Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said that the network is an “international gang and … we will pass on information to our partners in other countries to get to the bottom of this problem.”

SEE ALSO: Chile News and Profile

The full international dimension of the problem soon became apparent. The Haitians were apparently first crossing into the Dominican Republic, where they were taken on flights to Guyana and then moved through Brazil and Bolivia into Chile, according to the BBC.

The scheme was lucrative. Chilean media reported that the migrants had to pay $3,000 a head just to leave Haiti, with more costs piling up along the way as they moved through different countries.

The number of migrants caught is likely far from the real total. Chile’s former foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz (2014-2018), stated that the increase in Haitian migrants had been seen for years.

“Companies in Port-au-Prince are dedicated to getting Haitians to sell their house, to sell everything they have, to pay $3,000 dollars in exchange for a job contract in Chile and a plane ticket,” he told the BBC.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite being the poorest country per capita in the Western Hemisphere, according to the World Bank, Haiti’s political, security and economic crisis has lined the pockets of criminal gangs. And Chile has been a destination of choice, given its friendlier stance on migration and perceived economic opportunities.

In 2018, it was estimated by the country’s border police that as much as one percent of the Haitian population, or 105,000 people, had migrated to Chile. At the time, Chile’s investigative police (Policía de Investigaciones – PDI) stated that human smugglers bringing Haitians to Chile were making 160 million Chilean pesos (over $200,000) a week. To get around a rule requiring them to prove they had the means to support themselves in the country, Haitian migrants showed their bank accounts were well-stocked before emptying them to pay the traffickers once in the country.

But that same year, Chile tightened migration requirements, eliminating a temporary work visa that many migrants from Haiti, Venezuela and other countries had used to enter. Deportations soon followed and the number of migrants staying in the country also fell.

SEE ALSO: Human Trafficking Complaints Rise by 500 Percent in Chile

But this has not stemmed the problem entirely. Migrants continue to pay thousands of dollars to criminal gangs, despite Chile having significantly tightened its migration requirements. And while Bolivia caught 142 migrants in August, its government believes numbers have fallen significantly due to the coronavirus.

“Before the pandemic, it must have been much worse,” Marcel Rivas, Bolivia’s director of migration, told the BBC.

Other criminal economies have also benefited from the flow of people from Haiti, with migrants reportedly being used to carry drugs inside Chile. The Bolivian government has also claimed the Haitian migrants caught in August were connected to sex work and even organ trafficking, but has so far provided no evidence of this.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 5 OCT 2012

According to a new report on hemispheric security released by the Organization of American States (OAS) El Salvador, Bolivia and…

BOLIVIA / 30 JUL 2013

Bolivian President Evo Morales plans to sell coca tea to neighboring countries, in his latest attempt to expand the legal…

CARIBBEAN / 17 FEB 2012

A new UN report paints an alarming picture of the crime surge in the Caribbean, a trend that may escalate…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…