THE 2010 EARTHQUAKE devastated Haiti, killing thousands of people and destroying most of the country's infrastructure. Since then, reconstruction has been slow and unemployment has soared. There has been a mass exodus of Haitians from their country in search of greener pastures abroad and thousands of them have opted to live and work in Brazil, especially Manaus, the capital city of Brazil's northern Arnazonas state. Brazil is now the sixth-largest economy in the world. Its growth, and preparations to host the 2014 World Cup, have made the country an ideal place to look for jobs.
Manaus is a free economic zone. In other words, companies working there are taxed very lightly or not at all to encourage development of the region while preserving the environment. And so while it is difficult to find jobs in other parts of Brazil like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, that's not the case in Manaus. Many of these migrants travel to the Amazonas town of Tabatinga which shares a border with Colombia, where they apply for temporary visas and then travel by boat to Manaus in search of jobs. Local newspapers have reported a large concentration of Haitians in Tabatinga waiting for visas in order to travel to Manaus. To forestall the outbreak and spread of cholera, the Amazonas State Government sent a medical tea in to Tabatinga recently but so far no incidence of cholera has been reported.
Many of the Haitians are in shelters administered by the Catholic Church. Life in the shelters is not easy hut the Church is so far coping with the immense logistical demands. Help for the Haitians is coming from companies and Brazilians from all walks of life, who are making donations to the Catholic Church, says Father Gelmino Costa, the coordinator of the shelters housing the Haitians in Manaus. Father Costa is impressed by the comportment of the migrants.
Generally, they easily find jobs as industrial machine operators, construction workers, French teachers, shop assistants, etc. "They are well-behaved and very much concerned about their families and loved ones at home. They remit home despite the meagre salaries they receive and some even send all their pay packets home when they are able," Father Costa affirmed. In Manaus, It is now very common to see black people at the offices of the Western Union money transfer institution speaking the Haitian Creole.
Initially the arrival of thousands of Haitians in the Amazonas state was regarded with mixed feelings by the inhabitants of the region. There were very few blacks in Manaus, prior to the influx of the Haitians. Therefore, it is easy to spot the migrants. There were fears of an upsurge in criminal activities and the spread of diseases. However, the Haitians have proved to be hardworking people, drawing praise from their employers and the media. And there have been no reports of crime involving them so far in Manaus.
Haiti is regarded as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. …