Dominican Republic rejects criticism of Haitian deportations

By Rumi Samuel Published on November 22, 2022
Dominican Republic rejects criticism of Haitian deportations

The Dominican Republic said it “profusely rejects” criticism of its crackdown on Haitian migrants from many countries and human rights agencies.

Dominican authorities have ramped up border enforcement and deportations of Haitians, saying such actions are crucial to national security amid intensifying turmoil in the neighbouring country due to a gang blockade of fuel supplies and a cholera outbreak.

Authorities say they deported 43,900 migrants, largely Haitians, between July and October. In September and October alone, deportation figures shot up by about 50%.

The government’s actions have sparked heavy criticism recently from Haiti, the U.N. human rights chief and the United States.

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Santo Domingo sent out a warning saying Dominican migration authorities “have carried out widespread operations” to detain predominantly Haitian migrants who they believe are in the country illegally.

“There are reports that detainees are held in overcrowded detention centres, without the ability to challenge their detention and without access to food or toilets, sometimes for days, before being released or deported to Haiti,” the Embassy wrote.

The Embassy also warned that the government’s actions could pose a problem for darker-skinned African Americans travelling in the Dominican Republic.

Unlike the U.N. and Haiti, however, the U.S. did not explicitly call for the country to halt deportations. President Joe Biden’s administration has defended its practice of deporting and expelling Haitian migrants arriving at its southern border, despite heavy criticism from human rights organisations.

The Dominican Ministry of Foreign Relations lashed back at the criticism on Sunday, saying the American government had “no evidence”  of systematic human rights violations. It also decried what it said was a lack of international support to handle the migration from Haiti.

“The Dominican government could never have imagined there would be such a harsh insinuation made about our country,” the ministry wrote, “much less from an ally that has been subject to accusations of the xenophobic and racist treatment of migrants, including in parts of its population.”

Tensions fueled by migration have simmered for years between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share a 240-mile (390-kilometre) border on the island of Hispaniola. But they have only deepened since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, which thrust an already crisis-stricken Haiti into chaos.

Since then, deportations from the Dominican Republic have ramped up, and the country’s government has increasingly militarised its border, even beginning the construction of a border wall.

Last week, President Luis Abinader called the U.N. human rights chief’s recent demand for the end of the deportations “unacceptable and irresponsible.” He said his country “has been more affected” by Haiti’s problems and steady migration and “more supportive than any other country in the world.”

“You can’t ask anything more from the Dominican Republic. ... We’re going to continue the deportations, and next week we’re going to increase them,” he said.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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