Downtown Port-au-Prince. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre

By Vania Andre

With young Haitians leaving the country in droves to countries like Chile, a Haitian journalist released an action plan on March 11 calling for a campaign to “raise awareness and empower.”

The journalist, Dominique Domercant, a reporter for Le Nouvelliste – the country’s oldest daily newspaper — highlighted several ways various Haitian agencies and offices can educate potential migrants about the issues they may face abroad. The plan also includes recommendations on how to keep Haiti’s youth from fleeing the country in search of better economic opportunities.

According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 44,000 Haitians migrated to Chile in 2016; a stark contrast to the nearly 9,000 entries in 2015.  While there isn’t an exact tally of how many Haitians leave the country annually, immigration experts believe the number is significant enough to stave off any meaningful progress to the country.

Domercant’s recommendations include:

  • engaging the youth to participate in community projects
  • providing professional and vocational training opportunities
  • easing the criteria to start a new business.

“All the advice that Dominique wants to provide to young people in Haiti will not make a difference,” said Francois Pierre-Louis Ph.D., a political science professor at Queens College.

“Had the Haitian government implemented policies to prevent young people from leaving the country, they would have just stayed.”

Between 2011 and 2015, roughly 65,000 Haitians migrated to Brazil, according to data from Brazilian police. However, due to economic instability in the country, Haitians have set their eyes on Chile instead of Brazil. Chile’s border police estimates about 105,000 Haitians migrated to the country in 2017, with hundreds arriving daily.

Migration patterns are not “one way” or “linear,” said Cedric Audebert, a researcher at University of Poitiers in France. “Similar to other older migratory fields observed in other spaces of the Haitian diaspora, it is reversible and subject to new geographical orientations, depending on the economic situation in the settlement country.”

According to Audebert’s research paper “The recent geodynamics of Haitian migration in the Americas: refugees or economic migrants?” the recession in Brazil has turned the country into a “transit destination” for Haitian migrations towards other destinations in the Americas. The typical pattern is one where Haitians travel from  Brazil towards Central America, Mexico, and the U.S.; particularly, Southern California.

Haitians’ “exodus is fueled by poverty, despair and realizing that staying in Haiti is suicidal since there are no economic or social opportunities,” Pierre-Louis said. “It is also fueled by smugglers who realize that they can profit from Haitians who want to leave at any cost.

“The Haitian government and the international community [also] encourage young people to leave as a way to prevent a social explosion.”

Emigration from Haiti to other countries in large numbers has been taking place for over half a century, with Haitians moving primarily to the United States, Canada, France and neighboring countries in Latin America. There is an estimated 600,00 Haitian immigrants in the U.S.; 86,000 in Canada and 40,000 in France.

“There are no programs to train young people in Haiti, to hire them or make them feel wanted,” Pierre-Louis said. “Moreover, whenever there is an effort toward young people, it ends up in disasters. There are no real university campuses to teach young people. The only real campus that UEH had in Limonade is falling apart physically as well as academically.

“Everyone knows that living in your own country is better than anywhere else,” he said. “Migration is not the first choice for anyone.”

However, in Pierre-Louis’ opinion, young people in Haiti are left with one piece of advice that was once shared by former Haiti President René Préval — Naje pou w soti (swim your way out).

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply