Brazilian authorities have raised the alarm about human smugglers taking advantage of the mass illegal immigration wave into the country’s Amazon region.
In the last few weeks more than 5,000 immigrants have surged into the Amazon state of Acre from the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Peru. State governor Tiao Viana told BBC Mundo authorities had identified “the presence of coyotes making a lot of money. This worries us.”
Most of the immigrants are Haitian, though some come from as far as Bangladesh and Senegal. Acre declared a state of emergency earlier this month in response to the immigration wave, and a federal task force sent to deal with the crisis, issued more than 900 Haitian immigrants with residency and work permits.
Brazil is not the only Latin American nation dealing with Haitian immigrants. Mexican authorities reported the dismantling of a trafficking network of 30 people which brought Haitians into Mexico with false identification, according to El Informador.
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As Brazil continues to grow in economic power and influence, it is becoming an increasingly attractive destination from people fleeing poverty in the region’s poorest countries, Haiti being a prime example. The upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics provide even more incentive, as these huge events will provide work for low-skilled laborers. This combination of factors provides prime conditions for organized criminals to take advantage of people’s desperation and charge large amounts of money for smuggling services. There is also the risk of traffickers luring people into situations of exploitation.
Brazil experienced a similar crisis last year when thousands of Haitians emigrated into the Amazon region, prompting a national debate about immigration. The nation has also made moves to deal with human trafficking – a $3 million, three-year plan to combat the crime was announced in February which includes ten new control posts on border towns, the training of 400 staff and amendments to the penal code to criminalize illegal adoption, organ extraction and forced labor.