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Haiti faces crisis as deportations loom

03 July 2015


Paperwork: migrants, mostly Haitians, queue to register for legal residency in the Dominican Republic, last month.  The Dominican Republic is set to resume deporting people without it 

Paperwork: migrants, mostly Haitians, queue to register for legal residency in the Dominican Republic, last month.  The Dominican Republi...

A NEW humanitarian crisis is looming for Haiti if the threatened mass deportation of people of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic is carried out, agencies have warned.

A deadline for all non-citizens in the Dominican Republic to apply for residency, or face expulsion, expired last week. The deadline applied to foreign-born migrant workers and residents born in the Dominican Republic who have no documentation since being stripped of their Dominican citizenships by a 2013 court decision.

About 200,000 people, many of them of Haitian descent, are thought to have been rendered stateless by the decision.

So far, deportations have not begun, but many people of Haitian descent are reported to have begun leaving voluntarily, though most no longer have any family or contacts in Haiti.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed to the government of the Dominican Republic not to begin deportations, saying that the consequences could be "devastating".

A UNHCR spokesman said that there was concern about the human-rights considerations for people who may be expelled, and that people could end up being pushed into Haiti, even though they are not considered citizens of that country.

Christian Aid said that its sources say that between January and April this year, up to 1000 people were forcibly removed to Haiti.

Christian Aid's country manager for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Prospery Raymond, said: "Dominicans of Haitian descent are Dominican: they feel, act, and dream as Dominicans.

"Most don't view themselves as having any personal connection with Haitians, except for sharing an ethnic origin. They do not possess Haitian documentation, nor are they entitled to it. And yet, they're facing the very real danger of being forcibly removed to a completely alien country.

"If major deportations begin, this could trigger a new humanitarian crisis on the island. It is therefore important that everyone at risk has their cases individually examined, and is given the right to appeal, respecting due process.

"We are greatly concerned about the psychosocial impact on families who may be separated, the lack of support services available to deportees, and the conduct of the deportations, which continue to fall well short of bi-national protocols and international standards.

"Mass deportations will put additional strain on water supply, and could lead to an increase of cholera and other sanitation issues, particularly for children or the elderly. To avoid a crisis along the border, both governments must demonstrate they have appropriate public-health plans in place, so that deportees are not affected by the already challenging drought in that region."

The Deputy Interior Minister of the Dominican Republic, Washington Gonzalez, said that the government is reviewing nearly 290,000 applications for legal residency after last week's deadline.

The government has also announced a free bus service to take migrants to the Haitian border, which will run for the next ten days.

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