ARICA – Nine members of a migrant smuggling ring operating between Chile and the US have been arrested. According to an Interpol statement, the group is accused of having smuggled some 1,000 Haitian migrants. Among the smuggled were hundreds of children.
An operation called Frontera Norte, led by the Chilean investigative police, PDI, and supported by Interpol and police institutions across the continent, has led to the arrest of nine members of a migrant smuggling ring. The arrests took place last week in the northern city of Arica. The nine will face charges of unlawful association and migrant smuggling, according to an Interpol statement.
Among the nine are four Chileans, two Venezuelans, one Peruvian, one Haitian and one Paraguayan. They are accused of having smuggled some 1,000 Haitians from Chile to either Mexico or the US. The operation started in January 2020, when authorities received reports about numerous children from Chile with Haitian background crossing the Peruvian border.
Central American authorities also reported Chilean-Haitian children had stranded at their borders. In total, 267 Chilean-Haitian children under the age of six have been spotted on the migrant route crossing Central America into the US.
Traveling without parents
During the investigation, the PDI found children were often traveling alone while their parents’ whereabouts were unknown. Some had been abandoned or their parents had died en route. According to the police, the smuggling network expanded from Chile to the US.
“It is horrifying to think what these vulnerable children, some just a few years old, have suffered,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in a statement. “The diligence of the Chilean PDI in investigating and dismantling this network, with support from other involved countries via Interpol shows what law enforcement cooperation can achieve when information is shared.”
Earlier, international media reported the appearance of dozens of Chilean ID cards belonging to Haitian migrants that were tossed away near the US border. Media also reported that many Haitians are trying to leave Chile because the country doesn’t offer a perspective regarding work and visas.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.