Around 14,000 predominantly Haitian migrants have camped at the US border in Mexico, hoping to migrate north in search of better opportunities, The Washington Post and BBC have reported.
Officials are struggling to provide food and sanitation to thousands who have camped under a bridge that connects Del Rio in Texas with Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
Although these migrant camps also have people from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba, the majority are from Caribbean country Haiti.
Why are people migrating from Haiti?
A wave of Haitians abandoned their country and settled in Chile, Brazil and other South American countries after the devastating earthquake near Port-au-Prince in 2010. The earthquake left more than 220,000 people dead.
Another powerful earthquake hit the country in August this year killing more than 2,000 people.
Haiti has also been reeling under political unrest that resulted in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July.
"There was a big lack of hope for the people who were living on the ground in Haiti. It's just been one shock after another, and one trauma after another," Katiana Anglade, development and operations director at the Washington-based Lambi Fund of Haiti, told BBC.
Initially, Haitians settled in Brazil with the hope of getting jobs during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. However, once the jobs dried up, they started immigrating to other South American countries.
"After Brazil, many Haitians went to Chile. There were opportunities in the construction sector there too," Ralph Thomassaint, a journalist with Haitian media outlet AyiboPost, told BBC. He said visa were not required at the time to travel to Chile.
Why are they now leaving Chile?
Restrictive immigration policies in Chile and the assumption that the immigrants were welcomed in the US under President Joe Biden’s administration have forced Haitians to leave Chile too and travel to the US border.
In 2020, there were about 1.5 million immigrants living in Chile, according to Chile’s national statistics institute. These immigrants arrived from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti.
In 2018, the Chilean government announced that Haitians would have to get visas approved in Port-au-Prince before boarding a flight. The decree also prohibited these visa holders from getting jobs in Chile. Since then, the Chilean government has flown more than 800 Haitians back to their country in repatriation flights.
Those who remained were often exploited due to lack of documentation and had to take up underpaid jobs to support their families.
What is the US doing?
Last week, the US had flown 1,400 Haitians back to their country to curb the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities.
According to US officials, about 4,000 migrants are currently residing under the bridge in Del Rio. Some others have returned to Mexico, while about 3,200 immigrants are waiting to be processed.
Meanwhile, Colombian officials have said there are about 19,000 predominantly Haitian migrants waiting to cross the border to Panama and move north.
(Edited by : Pradeep Suresh V)