Dominican deportations to Haiti increase fear, frustration | Migration News

Authorities in the Dominican Republic rounded up thousands of Haitian migrants – and anyone who looked like they might be from Haiti – and deported them to a country in the grip Advocates say deadly gang violence and instability.

The forced evictions, which human rights groups say have escalated this month, have drawn international criticism and calls for restraint amid reports that unaccompanied children, women pregnant and other vulnerable people are being deported.

In the Dominican Republic, the majority of the population identifies as mixed race, while neighboring Haiti has a predominantly Black population. This has sparked accusations that xenophobia and racism are behind the deportations, part of a broader trend of anti-Haitian discrimination in the Dominican Republic.

Some of the deportees had never set foot in Haiti, which is grappling with rates of hunger, extreme poverty and cholera outbreak, in addition to increased violence. The country also does not have the necessary state agencies to deal with the influx of migrants, experts say.

William Charpantier, coordinator of MENAMIRD, a national roundtable for migrants and refugees in the Dominican Republic, said the Dominican police and armed forces are detaining Haitian people on the streets as well as ” all the people who look like Haitians.”

Charpantier said more than 20,000 people were deported over a nine-day period this month, including some Dominican nationals with Haitian ancestry.

An official source with knowledge of the matter told Al Jazeera that, if the current rate of deportations continues, about 40,000 people will be sent from the Dominican Republic to Haiti by November. That’s in addition to the 60,000 already. deported over the past months, said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

UNICEF says an estimated 1,800 unaccompanied minors have been deported from the country this year alone, a figure the Dominican Republic denies. UNICEF worked with partner organizations at the Haitian border to receive the children.

“These evictions have resulted in the separation of families. People with valid papers were deported, people born here in the Dominican Republic were deported,” Charpantier told Al Jazeera.

“This is not deportation. It is persecution based on race.”

Migration history

The accelerated deportations come after decades of strained relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share a roughly 400-kilometer (248-mile) border on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

About 500,000 Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, a country of 11 million people. They mainly work in the agricultural sector of Dominica, as well as in the construction and service industries.

Many had been in the country for many years, as Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic began in droves after the US occupation of Haiti in 1915.

“They need workers in the plantations to do the dirty work that the Dominicans don’t want to do because of low wages and terrible working conditions,” said Georges Fouron, a member of the Dominican Republic. professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who specializes in immigrant and Haitian identities.

While the Dominican economy remains dependent on Haitian labor, Fouron explains that the age-old fear surrounding the “Haitianization” of Dominican society persists. In the past, those fears have led to violence: A massacre in 1937 under the regime of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo left thousands of Haitians dead along the border.

Now, with Haiti facing a state of crisis, “there is fear that there will be a proliferation of gangs and all this activity is going on in Haiti,” Fouron told Al Jazeera. He predicts “it will increase these negative sentiments” towards Haitians “rather than diminish them”.

Haiti experienced months of escalating gang violence following the massacre. Assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. The political process is crippled, most state institutions are inactive, and insecurity pervades most aspects of daily life, particularly in the capital, Port-au -Prince.

“No way [the deportees] may exist in Haiti. Many of them barely speak Haitian Creole. They are unfamiliar with the social reality of Haiti, so they are in limbo, and after a while, what do they do? They come back,” Fouron said.

Bridget Wooding, director of OBMICA, a think-tank in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo, said the Dominican Republic has used deportation measures to control migration “in the absence of a formal plan of action.” functionalization”, which will create a pathway for migrants to legally obtain a place of residence.

Efforts over the past few years to legalize Haitian migration in the Dominican Republic have stalled, Wooding explained. About 200,000 unincorporated people are vulnerable to deportation.

She told Al Jazeera: “What seems to be happening is a turn-around situation whereby those who are deported are then returned to the country because it is clear that one way or another, the Dominican economy need Haitian migrants to work.

Meanwhile, with Dominican President Luis Abinader seeking re-election in 2024, Wooding believes Haitians are being “instrumentalized” for political gain, described as a “side enemy”. .

“They were in the middle of a rock and a hard place,” she said. “On one hand, it looks like the Dominican Republic doesn’t want them. On the other hand, it is very difficult for them to return to their original communities because of the gang violence in Haiti, because of the economic situation, etc.”

People stand outside a migration clearance center in Santo Domingo
People stand outside a immigration clearance center in Santo Domingo, trying to get information about family members or staff detained on November 15, 2022 [Raul Asencio/Courtesy by Listin Diario/via Reuters]

international criticism

In early November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appeal to all countries suspended all operations back into Haiti due to the “devastating humanitarian and security crisis” in the country.

A few days later, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk specific name Dominican Republic in another call to stop deportations. “I also call on the Dominican Republic government to step up efforts to prevent xenophobia, discrimination and related forms of intolerance based on national, racial or ethnic origin or immigration status. residence,” said Mr Turk.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph has criticized the Dominican government, calling the deportations “inhumane” and “discriminatory”. America, meanwhile, give a warning This month, it warned travelers that they could face “increasing interaction with Dominican authorities, particularly with regard to dark-skinned US citizens and African-American citizens”.

The US Embassy in Santo Domingo said the Americans reported being “delayed, detained or subjected to intense questioning at ports of entry and in other encounters with immigration officials based on color”. their skin” in recent months.

“There are reports that detainees are held in overcrowded detention centers, unable to challenge their detention and without access to food or toilets, sometimes in days, before being released or deported to Haiti,” it added.

But the Dominican government has waste recent criticism, saying it has the right to set its border policies in accordance with the country’s constitution as well as international law. In a statement on Sunday, the foreign ministry also Is called US accusations are “baseless”.

The ministry said the crisis in Haiti “seriously affects” the national security of the Dominican Republic and that Haitian migrants are putting a strain on local resources. “The Dominican Republic has been forced to deport a large number of Haitian migrants, who can no longer tolerate the situation in that country and who are beyond Dominica’s capacity. The Dominican Republic can’t take it anymore.”

‘Suspend of deportation’

Dominica’s president, Abinader, also appeared to double down last week as he pledged to step up deportations, as reported by the Associated Press and other media. Abinader’s government is also working to build a wall on the Dominican border with Haiti.

Dominica’s foreign ministry and its mission to the United Nations did not respond to Al Jazeera’s repeated requests for comment.

According to the official source of Al Jazeera, Over the past months, Dominican authorities have detained women for deportation outside hospitals, or sent women and children to raid their homes in the early morning. Some people did not have the opportunity to dress before being taken to the point of deportation.

“Expulsion enforcement over the past month was four times higher than the normal rate of evictions,” the source said.

Meanwhile, Charpantier at MENAMIRD has called on the Dominican authorities to stop the deportations. “What we are asking — demanding — from the government is a suspension of deportations and respect for human rights,” he said.

“The way they do the deportation is to identify the Negro. They can control the border, but domestically, they cannot continue to suppress and round up Black immigrants.”


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