Humanitarian Crisis Looms Large in Haiti as the Dominican Republic

Haitian Jaquenol Martinez shows a card that proves that he has worked in the Dominican sugar cane fields since 1963, while trying to apply for a temporary resident permit, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Monday, June 15, 2015. Hundreds of Haitians are waiting in long lines throughout the Dominican Republic trying to secure legal residency as they face the threat of deportation. The government has given non-citizens until Tuesday to register under an initiative aimed at regulating the flow of migrants from neighboring Haiti. (AP Photo/Ezequiel Abiu Lopez)
Haitian Jaquenol Martinez shows a card that proves that he has worked in the Dominican sugar cane fields since 1963, while trying to apply for a temporary resident permit, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Monday, June 15, 2015. Hundreds of Haitians are waiting in long lines throughout the Dominican Republic trying to secure legal residency as they face the threat of deportation. The government has given non-citizens until Tuesday to register under an initiative aimed at regulating the flow of migrants from neighboring Haiti. (AP Photo/Ezequiel Abiu Lopez)
Haitian Jaquenol Martinez shows a card that proves that he has worked in the Dominican sugar cane fields since 1963, while trying to apply for a temporary resident permit, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Monday, June 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Ezequiel Abiu Lopez)

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

As the international community raise the alarm about the “awful” impact of the Dominican Republic’s “inhumane” scheme to deport hundreds of thousands Haitians, calls for economic sanctions against the DR are gathering steam.

The calls are coming from dozens of Haitian immigrants elected to legislatures, the judiciary and municipal bodies in New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and other parts of the country as well as from their supporters who believe a threat of tough economic sanction would help force the DR to recognize the pain the ejections were causing Haitians who were being uprooted from the only country they have known for several decades.

“Economic sanctions and the involvement of the private sector are important if we are going to stop this cruel and inhumane policy that will transform hundreds of thousands of people into stateless persons,” said New York State Assembly member, Rodneyse Bichotte, a Brooklyn Democrat and a driving force behind the campaign in the U.S. to halt the evictions. “We believe a reduction in investment flowing to the DR, a fall-off in tourisms and a slowdown in trade would bring the message home to the government in Santo Domingo that what it is going is wrong and must be stopped.”

By “we” Bichotte was referring to dozens of Haitians serving in state assemblies and senates, as judges, mayors and members of municipal councils. The “drive is attracting support outside of the Haitian and Caribbean immigrant communities,” said Bichotte.

In New York where three Haitian immigrants are members of the lower chamber of the legislature, the lawmakers have passed a resolution condemning “the actions of the Dominican Republic’s Constitution Court” which stripped hundreds of thousands of Haitians of their citizenship and blames Dominicans for committing human and civil rights violations,” said Bichotte. Two other Haitian members of the Assembly, Kimberley Jean-Pierre and Michaelle Solages are also backing the call for sanctions.

“We are all members of the National Haitian-American Elected Officials Network and we are determined to raise the concerns of institutions and individuals who can help stop this policy from hurting Haitians,” said Bichotte.

At the same time, Assemblyman Nick Perry, a Brooklyn Democrat, said that it was important that “influential voices join” the campaign to end the deportations.

“We want more done and more voices raised to end the evictions in the Dominican Republic,” said Perry, Chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Legislative Caucus, a group of more than 50 law makers in Albany.

State Senator Kevin Parker said that he was “disappointed, appalled,” that the United Nations and Washington hadn’t acted more aggressively to exert pressure on the DR to end the deportations.

“The UN should have passed a resolution calling on its members to impose sanctions on the DR for what it is doing with Haitians many of whom were born in the DR or have lived there for decades contributing to the economic well-being of the country,” he said. “The Congress in Washington and the Obama Administration should also have spoken out forcibly on this matter. I find the silence stunning.”

Just last week, Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, told Caribbean presidents and prime ministers at their summit in Barbados that he was worried about the deportations impact, describing them as a “matter of human rights and human dignity. I have discussed this with the President of the Dominican Republic and trust there will be further progress in resolving this matter.”

In Haiti, the country’s Prime Minister, Evans Paul described the return of 14,000 Haitians, many of them women and children in recent weeks was creating a humanitarian crisis in the Creole speaking country. Some of the Haitians were deported by Dominican Republic immigration authorities while others went back voluntarily, fearing that they would be deported.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States in Washington is launching an investigation into the deportations, the policies which have led to the evictions and their impact on people.

The DR has agreed to cooperate with OAS investigation.

“We have nothing to hide because what we are doing is applying our laws on migration as every country in the world does and to do this we have done what was needed,” said Ramon Fadul, the Dominican Republic’s Minister of the Interior.

However, Human Rights Watch, a global human rights body charged that many of the Haitian deportees had been detained and then “shoved across the border” of the two countries.

Haiti and the DR share the island of Hispaniola.

It is estimated that as many as 500,000 people of Haitian descent live in the DR and at least 200,000 of them could end up being forcibly deported to a country they don’t know anything about and don’t speak its language.

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