Thursday, August 01, 2013

Desperate people, Canadian dreams and the lowest kind of predators

Backpacks ready for a trip to Canada that won't happen
Heartbreaking photo in La Prensa this week of devastated campesinos who had showed up in Santa Rosa de Copan expecting to start a trip that would end with legit Canadian jobs.
The best way to change your future in Honduras is to find a way to work in North America for a few years. You can send money home and save enough to buy some land or start a little business. (The second fastest way to change your future, I suppose, is the drug transport business.)
But when the would-be migrant workers showed up to board the buses that were to take them to the Tegucigalpa airport, they found out they had been ripped off. There were no buses, no waiting jobs picking apples and grapes. The office was empty.
The scam was elaborate. Radio stations ran ads about the job program, including here in Copan Ruinas. (I didn’t hear them.) The crooks had a good story about having already placed 19,000 workers. They had an office, and answered any queries or calls. They gave official receipts and itineraries. (And most of the victims were illiterate, or barely literate, and had no way to check the legitimacy.)
At the police station
Some 800 people paid about $500 each to get access to Canada. That’s a huge amount. Not only are their dreams shattered, but their lives in Honduras have been dealt a huge blow. 
José Antonio Arita, a farmer in Corquín, a remote village in the hills, told La Prensa he rushed to the job office in Santa Rosa when he heard about the opportunity. He sold his chain saw to help cover the cost. No saw means no income from selling firewood.
Jose Antonio Ramirez and his brother Hugo René both lost all their savings. The fact the offer was on the radio and the nice, fully staffed office convinced them the opportunity was real.
Until they showed up, with small backpacks of clothes and keepsakes, and found there were no buses and the office was locked up.
There are lots of arguments about temporary foreign workers in Canada, some legitimate, some not. About 1,200 Hondurans are currently in the country as temporary workers, doing jobs in the meatpacking plants and the like.
But the story is a good reminder of how desperate Hondurans are for better lives, and how easily Canada could help simply by giving them a chance to work for a couple of years.

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