Haiti is horrified and feels powerless as the tragic story of Dominicans of Haitian descent and illegal Haitian migrants who are being expulsed from the DR with no respect for any bilateral and international standards continues to unfold. Is it convenient to think that the rights of some people are more important than others? Today, the rights of 20,000 people have already been violated as they are forced to cross the border under brutal pressure.
As AAH Country Director, I find that those moments really test the meaning of the work of our organization and call for great courage from our sides. A state has failed to protect its citizens and the other one is loosing itself in adopting anachronistic practices that threaten our shared humanity. At this stage, only people’s solidarity, human conviction and courage, the outraged cry of women and men mobilized across borders to denounce injustice can stop what’s unacceptable and halt the law of brute force. AA joins this collective cry and calls for the respect of the rights of Haitians in the DR and the Dominicans of Haitian descent that have been left stateless by “ la Sentencia”.
In 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court has adopted the infamous “ TC 168-13”, stripping of their citizenship people that were born in the DR since 1929 but cannot prove that their parents have resided in the DR as legal immigrants. This decision affects more than 250,000 people whose majority are Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Due to pressures mainly from regional bodies such as CARICOM, the DR has put in place a National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). For the most part, Dominicans of Haitian descent and illegal Haitian immigrants have not been able to register on time under this Plan whose deadline expired on June 17, 2015. Both categories of “afectados” in principle are subject to deportation after the end, in August 2, 2015, of a grace period of 45 days.
In the meantime, forced “voluntary” repatriations are underway as categories mentioned above are fleeing the DR due to threats, aggressions, attacks on their physical integrity and personal properties and violent deportations often unacknowledged by Dominican authorities.
ActionAid Haiti is actively involved in clusters working at different levels on the issue with government, NGOs and other civil society actors to respond to the situation. AAH has worked on both parts of the island during the last decade. Our focus has been on addressing the awful situation of Haitians in the bateyes and supporting the efforts of Dominican and haitiano-dominican organizations to bring together citizens from both parts of the island called to create the possibilities for real functional coexistence. Today, the decision of the Constitutional Court, plunging into statelessness Dominican citizens of Haitian descent, and the ensuing aggressions against Haitians raises serious concerns.
Racism supported by ultranationalists in the DR
The actual situation has a lot do with ultranationalist sectors in the DR who have consistently relied upon racist and fascist arguments or methods that fuel hatred and contempt toward Haitians in the DR. Those extremists portray Haitians as an inferior racial and social group and this anti-blackness ideology has served to marginalize as well Dominican citizens with darker skin tone. It is unbelievable that such extremist behaviors can weigh so much influence in Dominican society in general and in the country’s decision-making spheres in particular more than 75 years after the infamous Parsley Massacre that saw the Dominican dictator and president Rafael Leonidas Trujillo y Molina order the massacre of approximately 35,000 Haitians, men women and children that were working in the sugar cane plantations and living in the bateyes in the DR.
A Contrasting Economic Story
During the US occupation of the island, between 1915-1934 for Haiti and 1916-1924 for the DR, US investment into the Dominican economy has been far more important in comparison to Haiti. Obviously, the Hatian-American Sugar Company (HASCO) was present in Haiti but sugar cane factories were mainly concentrated in the DR, especially in the Samana region. The Americans encourage the immigration of Haitian peasants as a supply of cheap labor for the lucrative sugar industry in the DR. Thus,Haitian peasants have been formally recruited by the state to move in bateyes in the DR to cut sugar cane. Recruiting Haitians for the “zafras” was a too good business for the Haitian state under the Duvalier regime for them to really care about the human rights abuses that Haitians were suffering in the sordid bateyes.
With the collapse of the DR sugar industry in the 1980s, Haitian migrant workers tend to concentrate now more on other areas of the agricultural sector and the construction sector. Contemporary accounts show that exploitative practices and poor working conditions plague the daily lives of Haitians working in those new sectors. They constitute a needed but unwanted category. At any time, they can be deported by Dominican authorities, with no respect for bilateral and international standards related to the issue of deportation.
A situation of economic parity existed in the island until the 1960s. The annual GDP for both Haiti and DR was roughly equivalent to US $ 800 in the 1960s.But the gap has been growing over time for political and economic reasons. Today, with importations reaching around US $1.2 billion annually, Haiti is the DR second trade partner behind the U.S., but trade profits are largely in favor of the DR. After the January 2010 earthquake, lucrative contracts totalizing more than US $ 500,000 have been signed with Dominican companies. Also, the costs of around 20,000 thousand young Haitians studying in the DR generate an annual transfer of US $ 200 million.
A Situation That Must Change
One island and two countries, “two wings of the same bird”. Both countries are condemned to live together. We need to support this vision. It is important to applaud the efforts of the DR in creating a climate political stability and for ranking among the fastest-growing economies in the region from the 1990s until 2002 -2003. However, Haitian immigrants have contributed to this economic take-off. Indeed, their contribution should be acknowledged and their rights should be respected in every situation. Obviously at first, the Haitian elites should do their own introspection and assume their responsibility toward the Haitian people that has endured too much suffering through economic exploitation and social exclusion. Haitians’ rights are inalienable rights and they cannot be deprived of that. We express our indignation and our refusal of any form of racism and rights violations against Haitians in the DR.
We call for the DR to reconsider this decision that plunges into statelessness Dominicans of Haitian descent. We ask for the respect and application of the accords and the creation of a clear Protocol between the two states as it is necessary for the deportation of illegal Haitian migrants to take place under conditions that respect their human rights.