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  HOME | Caribbean

Dominican Republic Repatriates 1,120 Haitians in 3 Days

DAJABON, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- The Dominican Republic has repatriated 1,120 Haitians in the past three days and allowed at least 950 others who had permits issued by the immigration service to enter the country, officials said Wednesday.

Immigration service inspectors and CESFRONT border security force members stopped six buses Monday night carrying 600 Haitians to different towns in the northwestern part of the country and to the northern city of Santiago, the immigration service's director for the northern region, Juan Isidro Perez, said.

The Haitian migrants were all immediately repatriated, Perez said.

On Tuesday, Dominican authorities deported all but 80 of the 600 Haitians who occupied a church in the northwestern border province of Dajabon to demand that they be allowed to return to the Dominican Republic after traveling to Haiti for Christmas.

The Haitians were removed from the church without any problems after a meeting among Dominican officials, the immigrants and Father Regino Martinez, who is the coordinator of the non-governmental organization Border Solidarity.

Immigration officials "have always been clear regarding the migration phenomenon," Perez said, adding that Haitians who tried to enter the Dominican Republic with the proper documents "are not inconvenienced" on returning.

The immigration official, however, condemned the occupation of the church in Dajabon, contending that a wave of Haitian migrants could not be allowed to enter Dominican territory.

Father Martinez had asked immigration officials to allow the Haitians occupying the church to remain in the country "for humanitarian reasons and for solidarity," since they have been living for years in the Dominican Republic, where they have family and property.

The officials, however, said only those migrants who could produce identification from the Association of Haitian Migrant Farmworkers, a group based in the northwestern Dominican Republic, could remain.

The majority of the Haitians who were occupying the church, however, did not have documents and had to be repatriated, immigration officials said.

On Dec. 18, Martinez, other Border Solidarity members and Jesuit Refugee Service representatives met with immigration service director Jose Anibal Sanz Jiminian and advised him that 1,696 Haitian workers planned to travel home for the holidays and return in January.

Dominican officials estimate that around 1 million Haitians live in the country, most of them illegal immigrants who work in agriculture and construction.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugar cane.

Haitians have been the target of mob violence numerous times in recent years, and the Dominican government has been widely criticized for its treatment of the migrants.


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