The Dominican Republic’s purge of undocumented Haitian workers and some Dominicans of Haitian descent is causing a humanitarian crisis which threatens to destabilize the region, according to news reports. The purge has caused thousands of people to flood into Haiti, a poor country which doesn’t have the resources to deal with the situation. Yahoo News reports Haitian officials claim they are ill-equipped to handle the influx of exiled people.
The mass exodus started on June 18 when the Dominican government started to enforce a court ruling ordering the removal of undocumented Haitian migrants and Dominicans born of Haitian parents after 1929. The Dominican government says it’s doing this to crack down on undocumented workers, who are a drain on the economy, but Haitians say it has more to do with their race. The government is effectively targeting anyone who looks Haitian (Black) and deporting them if they can’t prove legal residency. Up to 250,000 people could be expelled from the Dominican Republic because of the new law.
The purge has drawn the attention of the international community who have pleaded with the Dominican Republic to halt the mass deportations.
“The Organization of American States (OAS) wants the Dominican Republic to stop sending people to Haiti,” Secretary General Luis Almagro said, according to Yahoo News. “The situation has been deteriorating as the days go by,” he warned an OAS Permanent Council meeting.
In addition, a White House petition urging the Obama administration to take action on the purge has already gained more than 50,000 signatures. Some American politicians, such as Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley and New York Mayor Bill Di Blasio, have also criticized the Dominican government.
“These mass deportations – if enacted – would also be an abhorrent affront to human rights by one of our closest neighbors,” said O’Malley in an blog in The Huffington Post.
The Guardian said Human Rights Watch is accusing the Dominican government of violating the basic human rights of Haitians residing in the country such as barring them from registering the birth of their children, enrolling in school and traveling around the country freely.
“The Dominican Republic is denying tens of thousands of citizens their right to a nationality, and despite mixed messages, people are being detained and shoved over the border,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
According to Yahoo News, more than 17,000 people have already been deported to Haiti, where they are being viewed with suspicion by local authorities.
“Who are these people? Are they criminals? Have they run afoul of Dominican law?” said Haitian Foreign Minister Lener Renauld. “We cannot be saddled with criminals who we do not know.”
To compound the crisis, many of the deportees are arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs. Most of the Haitians who reside in the Dominican Republic work as manual laborers and don’t have a lot of resources. NPR reported Hermane Jean, a 20-year resident of the Dominican Republic, returned home for his mother’s funeral and is now stuck in Haiti.
“All of my children—over there. My wife—over there. My cow—over there. My pig—over there. Here, I have nothing. Everything is over there,” Jean said.
However, some relief organizations are on the ground trying to help the deportees, according to The Haitian Libre, an online news publication.
“This is a matter of great concern for all of us, and it is heading toward a serious humanitarian crisis,” said Bishop Ogé Beauvoir, executive director of Food for the Poor-Haiti. “Our charity has committed to support 700 deported in two very remote areas of the Southeast Department called Pascado and Tête-à-Eau.”
The Haitian Libre said the relief organization is providing food, stoves, shoes, baby supplies and blankets to the deportees.