This video was shortlisted for the FreeLens New Writings award, 2018.
In 2010, an earthquake shook Haiti to rubble, killing over 200.000, and displacing over one million people. The Brazilian government reached out, offering work and the USA declared a stay of execution on deportations. But in 2014, the Brazilian economy slowed dramatically and the migrants found themselves homeless once more. They took to the road, making their way to the US border in the hope of being granted temporary refugee status. They travelled on foot and by bus, across 10 countries: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala Mexico. A journey fraught with danger, hunger, misery and fear that would take over 3 months.
Some 60.000 migrants have reached the Tijuana / San Diego border crossing in the past two years, only to learn that the US Homeland Security Department changed its policy: Immigrants found without papers will be detained and deported back to Haiti.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew crashed through what remained of Haiti, adding to the destruction and death toll. There was nowhere for them to go.
Pastor Gustavo Banda’s church, Templo Embajadores de Jesus, stands some 40 mn drive from Tijuana, off a dirt track road where pigs roam freely. To its flank runs a canal where broken sewage pipes give off putrid smells day and night. It is called El Canon del Alacran (Scorpion Canyon) and for hundreds of refugees: it is home.
Pastor Banda welcomes over 500 Haitian migrants a week to his church. It’s halls are lined from wall to wall with mattresses. “They are very proud and resilient people. Most of the men find work quickly, in construction, or in the service industries, but only for a few dollars a day. Forty-five dollars a week. Not enough to pay for the rent of a room.”
Pastor Banda offered the migrants land on which he plans to build them small houses, but the work has been halted. The permission to build these small huts has been refused on the grounds that the land is too poor, that the rains will create landslides and wash them all away. Tyres are hammered into the sides of the land by the side of the road, to help hold back the mudslides. Each hut will provide a home, some privacy, for one migrant family. Each home costs 2500 dollars to build. The local government’s excuses have not stopped Pastor Banda from challenging the decision and erecting the first five houses, in an area that locals now refer to as:
In November 2017, Eline gave birth to a baby boy, named Giovanni. They hope that soon, a little house will be made available for them to move into, in Little Haiti.