Chile repatriates Haitian migrants

November 7, 2018
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Haitian migrants wait to register for repatriation, at a local gym in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. After an unsuccessful migration experience to Chile, 176 Haitians were flown home on a military plane free of charge. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile has flown 176 Haitians on a voluntary return to their home country as part of a program to reduce the number of unsuccessful migrants in the country.

The Chilean Air Force flight is the first of several planned. So far, 1,087 Haitians have signed up for the free return.

Interior Ministry Undersecretary Rodrigo Ubilla says about 150,000 Haitians came to Chile during the 2014-2018 term of former President Michelle Bachelet — a number he said was too many for the economy of Chile, a country of some 18 million people.

New center-right President Sebastian Pinera has tightened visa and other requirements.

Some of the Haitians returning Wednesday said they had been unable to find work, struggled with Spanish or disliked the cold Chilean winter.

Update hourly