SANTIAGO – Chile launched its plan for the voluntary repatriation of Haitians with an inaugural flight Wednesday from Santiago carrying 175 people back to the Caribbean nation.
The Haitians boarded a Chilean air force Boeing 767 that sometimes serves as the presidential aircraft.
As a condition of the free flight home, the migrants must agree not to return to Chile for at least nine years.
Some organizations that work with immigrants describe the plan as disguised deportation.
The Haitians who flew out Wednesday cited issues with the language, problems finding a job or home, racism, family separation and even Chile’s colder climate as reasons for wanting to return to their homeland.
The immigrants were seen off by Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, who said he expected it would take as many as 18 flights to transport the 1,087 Haitians enrolled in the plan, which may be extended to migrants of other nationalities.
Chile currently hosts roughly 1.09 million immigrants. The largest national contingents as Venezuelans, Peruvians, Haitians and Colombians, in that order, according to government data.