By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian federal government has suspended the transportation of Haitian immigrants from the Northern state of Acre to São Paulo city until a new plan for the relocation of these refugees has been found. On Tuesday, São Paulo city mayor, Fernando Haddad, complained that the city had not been informed that so many immigrants would be arriving in such a short period of time from Acre.
“It is difficult to receive these Haitians without at least 15 to 20 days notice so we can prepare,” said Haddad in a radio interview to CBN Radio on Tuesday, May 19th. “São Paulo city receives well its immigrants but we need some warning time to plan, for the comfort of the immigrants,” added Haddad. Since the beginning of the week more than 130 Haitians seeking refuge have arrived on buses from the state of Acre.
According to newspaper O Globo a video conference was held on Tuesday afternoon, between officials from the Acre government, the São Paulo city government and the Ministry of Justice to reach an agreement.
“For more than a year we have been seeking ways to cooperate with the federal and state [Acre] government to deal with this challenge in the short, medium and long term. If officials from all spheres of government acted in a coordinated and corroborated manner the results to would be much more effective,” stated the Human Rights and Citizenship Secretary for the city of São Paulo in a statement on Tuesday.
According to Acre governor, Tião Viana, on the state government webpage, more than 35,300 Haitians and Africans have entered Brazil through state’s borders since 2010 and the state has spent close to R$21 million to house, feed and transport these refugees to other parts of the country, where they seek jobs and a better life.
During a meeting with Brazil’s Chief of Staff, Aloisio Mercadante back in March, Viana said that the state no longer had the ability to coordinate humanitarian aide to these refugees and asked the federal government to deal directly with the Haitian government in Port au Prince to resolve the matter.
“I do not understand why a visa is not given to them [refugees] in Port au Prince so that they have the right to go directly where they want, without additional costs to the Acre state government and the federal government,” Viana stated at the time.
He added that without visas, these refugees usually travel by bus from Port au Prince (Haiti) to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), take an airplane to Panama City (Panama), then another airplane to Quito (Ecuador), go across the border to Peru, where they travel through several cities before reaching the border with Brazil and enter through the state of Acre.