SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — With jokes, upbeat Caribbean new music and family vacation scenes of sunshine-kissed beaches and palm trees, Haitian influencers on YouTube and TikTok publicize constitution flights to South America.

But they are not focusing on visitors.

Instead, they are touts for a flourishing, little-recognized shadow business that is profiting from the U.S. governing administration sending individuals again to Haiti, a place besieged by gang violence.

Extra than a dozen South American travel organizations have rented planes from very low-finances Latin American airways — some of them as substantial as 238-seat Airbuses — and then offered tickets at quality rates. Quite a few of the customers are Haitians who had been dwelling in Chile and Brazil in advance of they created their way to the Texas border in September, only to be expelled by the Biden administration and prevented from trying to get asylum. They are making use of the charter flights to flee Haiti once more and return to South The united states.

Some, obviously, strategy to make a different consider to enter the United States.

Rodolfo Noriega of the Countrywide Coordinator of Immigrants in Chile explained Haitians are staying exploited by businesses using benefit of their desperation. They “are at the conclude of a chain of strong businesses making dollars from this circuit of Haitian migration,” he claimed.

The airways and travel agencies say they perform in the authorized norms of the nations the place they are operating from and are basically supplying a support to the Haitian diaspora in South The usa.

The flourishing company design was discovered in an 8-thirty day period investigation by The Involved Press in partnership with the College of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Middle and its Investigative Reporting Program.


This tale is part of an ongoing Related Push collection, “Migration Inc,” which investigates people today and organizations that earnings from the motion of individuals who flee violence and civil strife in their homelands.


Haitians unwell of the deprivations of their island home resettled in Chile or Brazil, many soon after Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Then, very last slide, having difficulties as the pandemic strike local economies and beset by racism, thousands made the decision to make their way to the Texas border city of Del Rio. There, they ran afoul of a general public wellness get, invoked by the Trump administration and ongoing underneath the Biden administration, that blocks migrants from requesting asylum.

Authorities returned them not to South America, where by some of their kids have been born, but to their authentic homeland — Haiti.

Some interviewed by the AP reported they feared for their life there and desired to return to South America. But airways had stopped immediate commercial flights from Haiti to Chile and Brazil for the duration of the pandemic their remaining solution was the charters.

The flights from Haiti became a worthwhile enterprise as constraints aimed at controlling the unfold of the coronavirus decimated tourism, in accordance to the journey brokers. Planes get there empty to Haiti but return to South The us complete.

From November 2020 right until this Could, at minimum 128 charters were rented by travel businesses in Chile and Brazil for flights from Haiti, in accordance to flight monitoring information and facts, on line advertisements matching the flights to companies and other impartial verification by the AP and Berkeley.

Given that using workplace in January 2021, the Biden administration has despatched far more than 25,000 Haitians again to Haiti regardless of warnings from human legal rights teams that the expulsions would only contribute to Haiti’s travails and feed extra Haitian migration to Latin The us and the U.S.

Not all of the travellers on the charters experienced attempted to immigrate to the U.S., but based mostly on interviews with dozens of vacation brokers, Haitian migrants and advocates, and an examination of flight facts working with the Swedish provider Flightradar24, it is distinct that the charters have turn out to be a major suggests to flee Haiti.

Some who took charter flights back again to South The us have headed north all over again on the network of underground routes that wind by Central The united states and Mexico and that in the long run lead to the United States, in accordance to immigration attorneys, advocates and interviews with dozens of Haitians.

Numerous of the Haitians go back again to Chile and Brazil, relatively than destinations shut to the U.S. like Mexico, mainly because they have visas and other authorized paperwork to get into those people international locations. And possessing lived there, they can locate employment quickly to make funds for the trip north.

Some, like Amstrong Jean-Baptiste, also have children who have been born in South The usa. The 33-calendar year-old father of two stated he used $6,000 on a harrowing trip from Chile to Texas, only to be despatched back again to Haiti.

He reported he had knives pulled on him, solid rivers that carried other people away to their fatalities and encountered highway robbers. In the stop, he explained the Haitians ended up handcuffed and “treated like animals” by U.S. immigration authorities. He explained his son caught pneumonia in the immigration detention heart.

As he waited in Port-au-Prince for a charter flight back again to Santiago, information from northern Chile underscored why he wanted to go to the United States in the 1st location: A demonstration versus immigrants drew countless numbers of protesters who turned violent and ruined the possessions of migrants living in a camp.

Would he try out to go to the U.S. all over again? He did not rule it out.

“The challenges are so numerous that this shouldn’t be an expertise to repeat,” he stated. “However, a single need to never say in no way.”


Ana Darcelin, a journey agent with Journey VIP, a Santiago-primarily based agency that rents planes for flights from Haiti to Chile, stated Haitians who migrated north from the South American nation, only to be sent again to Haiti, are scrambling to leave Haiti and get again to Chile all over again.

“Everyone is providing constitution flights. There is a large amount of demand from customers,” she mentioned.

Travel businesses in Brazil and Chile explained in interviews that they spend anyplace from $100,000 to $200,000 to lease an plane. At that price, the three airways that rented planes for 128 constitution flights between Haiti and either Brazil or Chile would have been compensated a whole of wherever from $12 million to $25 million. Meanwhile, some selling prices for a person-way tickets from Haiti to Chile have far more than doubled in 8 months, from $625 to far more than $1,600.

In Brazil, several agencies featuring flights from Haiti rented from the very low-price tag Azul S.A. airlines, which was begun by JetBlue founder David Neeleman.

Most of the charters to Chile are on planes rented from SKY Airline, owned by the Chilean Paulmann spouse and children, which is worth billions.

Neither Neeleman nor Holger Paulmann, chairman of SKY, responded to e-mail and LinkedIn messages requesting remark.

SKY also signed a $1.8 million deal in April with the former administration of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to fly Latin American immigrants, mainly Venezuelans and Colombians expelled from Chile, back to their homelands. SKY attained about $670 for just about every expelled immigrant it flies to Central and South The us. Below the deal attained by the AP and Berkeley, the carrier should full at the very least 15 flights carrying 180 travellers each.

John Paul Spode, who has labored 35 a long time in the travel industry and manages NewStilo, which rents planes from SKY for the flights, reported Haiti is not the only place in disaster that provides an attractive market place for the constitution flight company.

His company also presents constitution flights concerning Venezuela and Chile. But there are couple places with the desire for charter flights like Haiti, although he explained it’s not an easy put to do enterprise. In March, protesters stormed the tarmac at an airport in the countryside and set a little plane on fire. Gangs also function in and all around the airport, he claimed.

“Unfortunately, we have had many travellers who have not been ready to board because there are persons who stand exterior (the airport) with some form of a listing and some type of uniform and they started off charging, stating ‘You are not on the list, sir, but for $250 you can be included,’ and then they let them enter the airport,” Spode claimed.

Some passengers explained at the time within the airport they had been blocked yet again by so-called airport business employees and told that their names were being even now not on the record, and they should shell out once more, Spode explained. Many do before they reach the ticket counter the place they finally are checked in by a genuine worker with the flight.

But would-be passengers courageous all that. “It’s hard to sell tickets from Santiago to Port-au-Prince. The aircraft leaves typically pretty much vacant,” Spode reported. “But we know that on the return trip it is heading to be whole, virtually, like folks virtually hanging from the aircraft, so to converse.”

The desire has been so wonderful that a 2nd reduced-price tag airline dependent in Ecuador, Aeroregional, entered the Chilean market place for the first time and begun supplying charter flights from Haiti to Chile. At the very least 11 Aeroregional charters have arrived from Haiti to Chile since December.

Dan Foote, a previous U.S. envoy to Haiti who resigned in excess of the Biden administration’s managing of Haitians at the Texas border, stated he is not shocked to listen to Haitians expelled from the U.S. are producing their way again to South The us, and that organizations are lining up to enable them.

“Until the root leads to of instability are definitely attacked in a affected individual, systematic, holistic way, it is going to retain likely,″ Foote reported.

The journey businesses and airlines denied they are facilitating Haitian migration.

Aeroregional’s running director, Luis Manuel Rodriguez, said in a statement by way of LinkedIn that the airline’s purpose is just to transportation people. He stated that the immigration position of its passengers is checked by immigration authorities of the countries concerned.

Azul verified by email that it has supplied constitution flights among Haiti and Brazil, but reported individuals contracts have confidentiality clauses. The company did not react to a observe-up request for a lot more information and facts.

Carmen Gloria Serrat, the small business supervisor of SKY, reported in a assertion that the firm delivers risk-free, lawful transportation “for whoever would like it and needs it.” She stated airlines are dependable for validating the paperwork of passengers and ought to take in the charges of returning any person who is denied entry to a nation.

She explained the flights run 4 occasions regular monthly on ordinary and signify a minuscule element of SKY’s business.

“The act of delivering safe and legal transportation is a assure to stay away from the probability of abuses,” Serrat said. “It’s vital to issue out that in SKY we run within the recognized norms for getting into a state and often in coordination and under the supervision of immigration authorities.”


At the very least a person vacation agency is open about providing to assist those who hope to get to the United States.

Alta Tour Turismo Travel Agency rents planes for constitution flights involving Haiti and Chile.

A TikTok account with the tackle @altatourtravelagency posted a video on June 14, 2021, talking about how to avoid the Darien Gap, a treacherous, roadless area of thick jungle between Colombia and Panama traversed by migrants from South The united states heading north.

In the online video, two guys are conversing about diverse routes north as they clearly show a big boat at sea.

“Considering the level of mistreatment Haitians endured from the Colombians in the jungle, I will never go by way of the jungle,” claims 1 as the camera zooms in on the boat on the horizon.

It was unclear if the video was intended to join men and women to boats or was a internet marketing resource to catch the attention of consumers in need of flights to South The usa who supposed to then take the migrant route north.

Alta Tour Turismo started off with a online video on Facebook at the commence of 2021 that educated viewers that Bolivia was not deporting individuals. The company included a thirty day period later.

The slogan of the Santiago-primarily based agency is “travel with pleasure.” Reservations for flights are mainly finished via WhatsApp. The agency’s social media accounts have nearly 40,000 followers they market vacation from Haiti to this sort of nations around the world as Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, Chile and Mexico.

Ezechias Revanget said he started out the agency with 3 other Haitian immigrants in Chile to lease planes so fellow Haitians in Chile could go again property to see household. His agency has leased 186-seat Airbus planes from SKY airlines.

“Our goal is to do the job with our compatriots, and there are also other individuals — such as Chileans, Bolivians, Dominicans, any individual, any nationality can acquire tickets at our agency,” he mentioned.

Alta Tour Turismo also marketed flights to Suriname. In an April 2021 post, the company posted on its Fb website page that Haitians who had only a passport and preferred to go away Haiti really should not miss this option, asserting: “you know if you arrive in Suriname you can go to other destinations also,” adopted by three smiling emoji and the agency’s numbers.

Revanget, who also employs the title Dave Elmyr, refused to reply far more thoughts.

“They must be investigating these flights — they ought to,” said Carolina Rudnick Vizcarra, an legal professional and director of LIBERA, a Santiago-based nonprofit combatting human trafficking. “And by now, everybody is aware that Haitians are susceptible — they really don’t have the money” or places to keep.

U.S. officials instructed the AP they had been unaware of the charter flights from Haiti. Some South American nations have taken motion to protect against their use by migrants and smugglers. Final yr, Suriname stopped constitution flights from Haiti and issuing visas to Haitians, in accordance to Suriname’s Ministry of International Affairs.

That same 12 months, neighboring French Guiana complained about Haitians coming throughout its border.

“What was peculiar was that in the center of a pandemic, so numerous flights have been arriving from Haiti … there were being unaccompanied minors on the flight, as perfectly as many Haitians with no visas,” Antoine Joly, the former French ambassador in Suriname explained to the French Guiana Television station, Guyane la 1ere in a video posted Could 4.

Shortly following that, Guyana, which also borders Suriname, canceled an earlier purchase making it possible for Haitians in with out a visa, contending the country was currently being employed as a destination for human smugglers who had been taking migrants into neighboring Brazil in which they would continue to be briefly ahead of heading north to Mexico and the U.S.

Giuseppe Loprete, chief of mission in Haiti of the Intercontinental Corporation of Migration, claimed the United Nations agency uncovered about charter flights from Haiti to Chile in interviews with migrants who experienced been despatched back from the United States and Mexico.

“We experimented with to discover out more, but we never have the indicates to look into these flights,” he wrote in an e-mail to the AP on April 22. “Our assumption was that from Chile they shift on to other nations around the world heading (to) the Mexican-United states of america border, if not suitable away, following some time. In all probability when they have gathered sufficient money and details to move ahead.”


The Azul constitution flights started out on Nov. 14, 2020, from Port-au-Prince to Manaus, Brazil. The metropolis of 2.2 million features a single of Brazil’s major airports, is the funds of the Amazon region with a Haitian immigrant inhabitants and is also a nicely-regarded jumping-off stage for Haitian migrants who travel by boats from there along a river connecting the Colombian, Peruvian and Guyanese borders right before continuing north.

Flight details confirmed that 54 Azul planes flew charter flights from Port-au-Prince to Manaus. The flights stopped in October. That exact month, the Brazilian embassy in Haiti stopped issuing all visas to Haitians, in accordance to a document from the Brazilian ambassador in Haiti acquired by AP and Berkeley.

Jean Robert Jean Baptiste, 49, claimed he purchased a $1,400 ticket for an Azul flight in December 2020 to Brazil. He expended a month in Haiti immediately after he was deported from Louisiana, where by he was held at an immigration detention middle adhering to his arrest on a DUI cost. Back again in Haiti, he explained an enemy threatened to get rid of him and had the backing of the law enforcement.

He explained he made the decision to fly to Brazil mainly because he experienced a visa to get into the country just after living there from 2011 to 2012 before creating his way to the United States in 2016 and settled in Alabama.

In 2021, he created his way from Brazil by bus and on foot. He walked for a 7 days, most of it in the rain, via the Darien Hole, exactly where he stated he saw lifeless bodies of those who didn’t make it. He stated he experienced to shell out bandits who blocked his path robbers stole his cellphone and $500 from him.

All told, he reported it price him about $7,000 to return to Tijuana, where by he was hoping to uncover a way back again to the U.S. He’s driven, he explained, by a perseverance to “have a very good life” for his young children.

The Paulmann family’s SKY, meanwhile, is the constitution of choice concerning Haiti and Chile of 71 this sort of flights since 2020 that AP and Berkeley tracked, 60 have been on SKY. The Paulmanns operate a person of Latin America’s largest retail companies, Cencosud, and have a net truly worth of $3.3 billion, in accordance to Forbes magazine. SKY constitution planes also flew 3 flights concerning Haiti and Brazil in 2021.

Etienne Ilienses stated she was despatched back again to Haiti from Texas on Dec. 14. She talked to the AP in advance of flying to Santiago with her a few youngsters on a Jan. 30 constitution flight on SKY. “To get to the United states of america, I braved hell,” she claimed. Still, she did not dismiss the risk of doing it once more “because Haiti gives practically nothing to its children. We are compelled to endure humiliations, affronts all over the place.”

But just because Haitians fly to Chile, it doesn’t indicate they can stay. Dozens have been held by immigration officials after arriving in Santiago in latest months. A person group used months sleeping at the airport just before Chile’s Supreme Court docket on Jan. 31 ordered police to launch them and permit them to ask for asylum.

Many others ended up sent again to Haiti in just hrs of landing.

SKY’s Serrat stated the airline works intently with immigration officers to stay away from that predicament, although the marketing and advertising aimed at travellers is the obligation of the journey operators. (Aeroregional’s manager did not respond to questions about traveling in Haitians who were being afterwards expelled.)

Theleon Marckenson, 31, was despatched back to Haiti from Texas very last tumble. He stated he invested $1,650 for a charter flight on Aeroregional to return to Chile, in which he had lived given that 2017.

After Marckenson landed in Santiago, Chilean authorities told him the application he had submitted for everlasting residency prior to he remaining for the U.S. border experienced expired. Several hours later he was set on a different Aeroregional flight to Haiti with 6 others.

“I really don’t have any far more money,” Marckenson mentioned by telephone after landing again in Port-au-Prince. “I really don’t know what I am going to do. But I can not stay right here. There is only hunger. There is no life.”


Gisela Perez de Acha is a supervisory reporter for Berkeley’s Human Rights Middle and its Investigative Reporting Program. Katie Licari is a the latest Berkeley graduate journalism alum.


Watson claimed from San Diego, Daniel from New York. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami and Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador also contributed to this report. University of California pupils Zhe Wu, Mar Segura, Grace Luo, Gergana Georgieva, José Fernando Rengifo, Pamela Estrada, Freddy Brewster, Sabrina Kharrazi, Jocelyn Tabancay, Imran Ali Malik described from Berkeley, along with Human Rights Heart Investigations Lab director Stephanie Croft.