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Border Camps Forming as Dominican Republic Forces Deportations

by Marlon Ramtahal /

Thousands of people of Haitian descent who live in Dominican Republic are fleeing across the border to Haiti as Dominican officials carry out deportations and citizenship questioning.

Living under the extraordinary threat of the country’s security forces and threats of deportation, many are setting up shacks made out of bed sheets, wooden branches, and whatever else they are lucky to find.

The growing camps lack water and electricity for the Haitian population, and started to grow after June 17, which is the deadline to apply for residency in Dominican Republic under its deportation program that the Dominican government has claimed is intended to bring order to the unchecked flow of migrants in the country.

However many who are fleeing have lived for decades in Dominican Republic. A Dominican Republic court ruling has retroactively stripped citizenship of native Dominicans of Haitian ancestry. Many people are being forced to prove their citizenship and those of Haitian descent believe the issue is racist.

More than 288,000 people applied for residency in Dominican Republic and 25,000 of them have received documents to stay and work in the country. The Dominican government says 66,000 people have returned to Haiti since the deadline.Many of them could not qualify for residency because they did not meet the requirements, while others say they feel increasing hostility in the Dominican Republic towards people from Haiti.

In a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry on August 7, former Peace Corps Country Directors noted that Kerry could suspend aid to security forces when human rights abuses have been documented.

“By continuing to offer its military aid to the Dominican security forces, the United States is undermining internal efforts by a variety of organizations and individuals in Dominican civil society to protect vulnerable people, defend human rights, and bring the country into compliance with international law,” the country directors stated.

Haitians in the camps were desperately poor when they arrived and they are now cut off from the jobs that sustained them in the Dominican Republic.

They are given food, clothing, and other assistance from the Catholic Church and other charities, but little from the Dominican government, which has warned that the camps are becoming a crisis and has threatened to remove at least some of the people. Those in the camps, however, say they have nowhere else to go.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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