SANTO DOMINGO – The Dominican Republic announced that it will resume the repatriations of undocumented Haitians almost a year after that practice was halted for humanitarian reasons linked to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
The director general of Immigration, Sigfrido Pared Perez, said that his department will give a “firm” response to the irregular entry of Haitians into the country.
Thousands of Haitians fled to the neighboring Dominican Republic after the quake that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than a million.
“What we’re seeking is to strengthen more and more the immigration controls to prevent Haitian citizens and those of other nationalities from being able to enter in an irregular manner,” Pared Perez said.
He said that the process of sending the undocumented Haitians back to their country will begin with a group of them who live in several communities in the northern city of Santiago, where local residents have threatened to expel them after claiming that the majority of them are engaged in criminal activities.
Because of those incidents, Haiti’s envoy in Santo Domingo, Fritz Cineas, lamented the fact that his countrymen were involved in criminal acts and in breaking the rules for coexistence in the country, although he added that the situation will not damage the “excellent” relations between the two countries.
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.
But since the earthquake in Haiti, bilateral contacts have improved considerably due to the positive response of the Dominicans in providing aid to their neighbors after the catastrophe. EFE