Migration will continue as long as inequality persists, says Haiti's prime minister as Del Rio bridge crisis ends

Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of Haiti, remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Saturday Sept. 25, 2021 at UN headquarters. (UN Web TV via AP)

United Nations Headquarters, New York (CNN)The tens of thousands of people sheltering in the shadow of Texas's Del Rio bridge have gone, but their trials continue. And they will not be the last, as Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry warned on Saturday.

Some have been expelled to Haiti by force, others convinced to cross the border back to Mexico. A number remain in limbo in the US -- luckier than most, because they will have the chance to make their case before an American immigration judge.
Addressing the border crisis before the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Henry pointedly reminded the world that "many countries which are prosperous today have been built through successive waves of migrants and refugees."
    Global inequality is the fundamental driver of such crises, he also said. "The problem of migrants must remind us that human beings, fathers and mothers, will always flee misery and conflict and strive to offer better living conditions to their children," he said.
      "Migrations will continue as long as there are pockets of wealth on the planet, while the majority of the world population lives in precarity."
      For many Haitian migrants, this past week was only one more hardship in a series that had begun months and even years ago. Some of those who made their way to Del Rio had originally fled Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, and worked in South America for years, supporting families back home with their earnings.
      But racism, tightening immigration laws and the economic fallout of the pandemic have forced Haitians in countries like Chile and Brazil to look for something new, say migrants and advocacy groups. Those pressures have not gone away, which raises the prospect of future crushes of migrants at the US border.
        "Haitian migration has been roaming Latin America for more than a decade," said the interior ministry of Chile in a statement to CNN. "In Chile, their exodus is increasingly notorious, given the current working conditions that do not favor their insertion in the market, even with a visa and work permit."
        Djimy Delice, a Haitian migrant activist who lives in Valparaiso, Chile, says the recent passage of a new immigration law has made it difficult for undocumented migrants to regularize their status, and to access education, housing and health services. "What we know is that if (migrants) have a very uncertain journey (to reach the US), nothing here is certain either," he said.
        In Brazil, another common origin country for Haitian migrants, Gilbert Lafortune says he is still contemplating heading for the US.
        The 49-year-old father, who lives in Sao Paulo, says soaring inflation has made everyday survival impossible for those who are also supporting families back home in Haiti.
        "With the rising inflation, the cost of everything has gone up: light, gas, water, food ...The minimum wage in Brazil is 1,100 reais (a little more than $200), so you can't pay rent, food and also help your family," he said. "Therefore, a lot of people need to leave and go to the US."

        Concerns over speed

        "As of this morning there are no longer any migrants in the camp underneath the Del Rio bridge," US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Friday -- a logistical feat, but one that raised concerns in NGO and advocacy circles over how humane the processing of nearly 30,000 people in so short a time could have been.
        UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi earlier this week slammed the expulsion of some migrants under Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows border officials to quickly expel migrants as a pandemic public health precaution. The policy was ruled illegal by a judge but remains in effect until the end of the month.
        "The summary, mass expulsions of individuals currently under way under the Title 42 authority, without screening for protection needs, is inconsistent with international norms and may constitute refoulement," Grandi said, referencing a principle in international law that forbids returning migrants to countries where they would face irreparable harm.
        Haiti is wracked with an epidemic of violent crime, political turmoil and devastation from a recent earthquake. Large swathes of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, are controlled by gangs, who operate sprawling kidnapping-for-profit operations.