Peru, Chile and Haiti authorities have met to discuss controversial changes to immigration policy in Chile within the framework of Lima’s VIII Summit of Americas, which ended Saturday.
Chile Targets Haitians, Venezuelans in New Immigration Policies
During the international convention, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera broached the nation’s altered immigration policies, which are causing serious distress among Chile’s Haitian and Venezuelan communities.
"Chile has always been an open and welcoming country with migration, but with the immigrants that come to Chile – our societies, integrated into our society, to contribute to our country – that will continue like this, but we want it to be regulated," Piñera said Friday.
A bilateral meeting was later requested by Haitian President Jovenel Moise. According to the changes, Haitian immigrants will be required to return to their home country and complete visa applications at the national Chilean Ministry.
The new measure attempts to quell the flood of undocumented immigrants traveling without passports. Haitians and Venezuelans are now permitted only 30 days for a tourist visa, which prevents holders from working or earning money in Chile.
Temporary residency for humanitarian visas, limited to one year, will be awarded to only 10,000 Haitians, with preference given to residents with higher education or families.
According to local media, the national leaders planned to discuss the reforms with Piñera explaining his position. The Chilean administrator defended the policy changes, saying: "You cannot continue with what has happened so far: that there is immense illegal immigration, that it is not safe, that it is not orderly and that harms immigrants."
Piñera said the new reforms are modern and uphold human rights to the highest standards, comparing the new and improved immigration laws to those of Canada.
"Canada has a very modern immigration policy, and in fact, we are going to send people from our country to know in detail the way in which Canada faces issues similar to those we face in Chile," the president said.
However, activists have denounced the changes. Haitian migrant and activist Yvenet Dorsainvil said Wednesday: "I’ve been receiving calls all day from Haitians saying they already bought tickets to travel for May and the end of April. They should go and get their money back from agents because they won’t be allowed to enter."
In regards to the humanitarian visa, Dorsainvil said: "It’s not normal, it’s not humane… Piñera says he wants to prioritize children in Chile, well he can’t prioritize one set of children and put conditions on another group."