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Dominica Deportation to Haiti Fuels Growing Fear and Frustration

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have rounded up and deported thousands of Haitian immigrants and those believed to be of Haitian origin. country under control Of deadly gang violence and instability, advocates say.

Deportations that human rights groups say have escalated this month have prompted international criticism and calls for restraint, amid reports of unaccompanied children, pregnant women and other vulnerable people being deported.

The Dominican Republic identifies itself as having a majority of its population of mixed ancestry, while neighboring Haiti is predominantly black. This has fueled accusations that xenophobia and racism were behind the deportation, and is part of a wider trend of anti-Haiti discrimination in the Dominican Republic.

Some deportees have never set foot in Haiti. cholera outbreak, in addition to the surging violence. The country also lacks the necessary state institutions to deal with the influx of arrivals, experts say.

William Charpentier, coordinator of MENAMIRD, the national roundtable for immigrants and refugees in the Dominican Republic, said that not only were the Dominican police and military detaining Haitians in the streets, but they also “looked like Haitians.” “Everyone is in custody,” he said.

Charpentier said more than 20,000 people were deported in nine days this month, including Haitian Dominicans.

An official source with knowledge of the matter told Al Jazeera that about 40,000 people will be sent to Haiti from the Dominican Republic in November if the current pace of deportations continues. This is in addition to his 60,000 people who have been deported over the past few months, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely.

UNICEF said an estimated 1,800 unaccompanied minors have been expelled from the country this year alone, although the Dominican Republic denies that number. UNICEF is working with partners to host children at the Haitian border.

“These deportations have resulted in the separation of families. Those with valid papers were deported, and those born here in the Dominican Republic were deported,” Charpentier told Al Jazeera.

“These are not deportations. It’s racial persecution.”

migration history

Accelerated deportation follows decades of tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share a border of about 400 kilometers (248 miles) on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

About 500,000 Haitians currently live in the Dominican Republic, a population of 11 million. They mainly work in Dominica’s agricultural sector, construction and service industries.

After the United States occupied Haiti in 1915, mass emigration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic began, so many have lived in the country for years.

“They needed workers on the plantations. The Dominicans were doing the dirty work they didn’t want to do because the wages were low and the conditions were terrible,” Georges Fouron said. Professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, specializing in immigrant identity and Haiti.

Although Dominica’s economy still depends on Haitian labor, Foulon said long-standing fears about the “Haitianization” of Dominican society persisted. In the past, these fears led to violence. Thousands of Haitians died along the border in the 1937 genocide under the Dominican Republic’s dictator Rafael Trujillo.

With Haiti now facing a crisis, “there is concern that gangs and all the activities that are going on in Haiti will spill over,” Foulon told Al Jazeera. “Far from alleviating these negative feelings, they will increase them,” he predicts.

In Haiti, gang violence has escalated over the months following the incident. Assassination of President Jovenel Moise The political process is paralyzed, most state institutions are non-functional, and insecurity plagues nearly every aspect of daily life, especially in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“There is no way [the deportees] You can survive in Haiti. Many of them speak very little Haitian Creole. They are unfamiliar with Haitian social realities and are at a loss. After a while, what do they do? They come back,” said Foulon.

Bridget Wooding, director of the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo-based think tank OBMICA, said the Dominican Republic has historically used deportation to control immigration “in the absence of a functional regularization plan.” Stated. residence.

Efforts over the past few years to normalize immigration status for Haitians in the Dominican Republic have stalled, Wooding explained. About 200,000 people who lost their legal status were at risk of deportation.

“It seems clear that the Dominican economy somehow needs the labor of Haitian immigrants, so there appears to be a revolving door situation going on for deported people to re-enter the country,” she told Al Jazeera. Told.

Meanwhile, as Dominican President Luis Avinader seeks re-election in 2024, Wooding believes Haitians are being “instrumentalized” for political gain and portrayed as “enemies next door.” .

“They’re somewhere between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “On the one hand, the Dominican Republic doesn’t seem to want them. It is very difficult to return to the original community.”

People stand outside the Immigration Permit Center in Santo Domingo on November 15, 2022, seeking information about detained family members and employees. [Raul Asencio/Courtesy by Listin Diario/via Reuters]

international criticism

In early November, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged all countries Suspend return to Haiti due to the country’s “catastrophic humanitarian and security crisis”.

A few days later, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk specifically named The Dominican Republic in another appeal to stop deportations. “I also call on the Dominican authorities to step up their efforts to prevent xenophobia, discrimination and related forms of intolerance based on nationality, racial or ethnic origin, or immigration status.” Turk said.

Former Haiti Prime Minister Claude Joseph has lashed out at the Dominican government, calling the deportation “inhumane” and “discriminatory”. On the other hand, the United States raised the alarm Earlier this month, it warned travelers that it could lead to “increased interactions with Dominican authorities, especially for dark-skinned Americans and Americans of African descent.”

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo said that in recent months, Americans have been “delayed, detained, and subjected to increased interrogation at ports of entry and other immigration officer encounters based on the color of their skin.” said to have reported.

‗Detainees have reportedly been unable to challenge their detention before being released or deported to Haiti and have been held in overcrowded detention centers, sometimes for days, sometimes for days. There is,” he added.

However, the Dominican government was denied Recent criticisms say they have the right to set border policies in accordance with their own constitutions and international law.In a statement on Sunday, the foreign ministry also said called The US allegations are “baseless.”

The ministry said the crisis in Haiti is “severely impacting” Dominica’s national security and that migrants from Haiti are straining local resources. “The Dominican Republic is no longer able to withstand the domestic situation and is being forced to deport a large number of Haitian migrants who are overwhelming Dominican capacity.

“Stop deportation”

Dominican President Abinader also appears to have doubled down last week when he promised to increase deportations, as reported by the Associated Press and other media outlets. build a wall It is located on the Dominican border with Haiti.

The Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations did not respond to repeated requests for comment by Al Jazeera.

According to Al Jazeera official sources, Over the past few months, Dominican authorities have detained women for deportation from hospitals and taken them and children in early morning raids. Some were not given the opportunity to dress before being taken to deportation sites.

“Last month’s deportations are four times the normal deportation rate,” the source said.

Meanwhile, MENAMIRD’s Charpentier appealed to the Dominican authorities to stop the transfer. “What we want and demand from the government is to suspend deportations and respect human rights,” he said.

“The way they carry out deportation is by identifying black people.

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