The thriving business model was revealed in an eight-month investigation by The Associated Press in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and its Investigative Reporting Program.
With jokes, upbeat Caribbean music and vacation scenes of sun-kissed beaches and palm trees, Haitian influencers on YouTube and TikTok advertise charter flights to South America, AP reports.
But they are not targeting tourists.
Instead, they are touts for a thriving, little-known shadow industry that is profiting from the U.S. government sending people back to Haiti, a country besieged by gang violence.
More than a dozen South American travel agencies have rented planes from low-budget Latin American airlines — some of them as large as 238-seat Airbuses — and then sold tickets at premium prices. Many of the customers are Haitians who had been living in Chile and Brazil before they made their way to the Texas border in September, only to be expelled by the Biden administration and prevented from seeking asylum. They are using the charter flights to flee Haiti again and return to South America.
The airlines and travel agencies say they work within the legal norms of the countries where they are operating from and are simply providing a service to the Haitian diaspora in South America.
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