Dominican wall against Haitian migrants
In the Dominican Republic, the authorities have undertaken the construction of a 160 kilometer wall on their border with Haiti. The objective is to counter what the president calls “the Haitian invasion”, a meaningful expression that refers to ancient wars between the two neighbors.
A 160 km wall built between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
SANTO DOMINGO – We walk through a tangle of streets and alleys teeming with stalls of used goods, fruits, multicolored vegetables. Salespeople are pissed off. Cries, laughter and horns mingle with the kompa tunes spit out from the tired loudspeakers. Welcome to Pequenito Haiti (Little Haiti), in the heart of Santo Domingo.
Roudy Joseph, who devotes his time to defending the rights of Haitians living in the Republic Dominican Republic, guides the journalist Sylvain Desjardins.
Our guide is Roudy Joseph, 38, an activist with a group that defends the rights of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.
I've been arrested before, here, he tells us straight away. And yet, I had my Dominican identity card with me! It was last May. Roudy Joseph was detained for a few hours, even though he has all the papers proving his legal resident status, obtained 18 years ago.
“I protested, said I had the right to call my lawyer. And this is what allowed me to avoid being expelled. »
— Roudy Joseph
< p class="e-p">Arrests by the Dominican police are very frequent in this neighborhood. The hunt for Haitians, as Roudy put it, has been going on for months, since the security and humanitarian crisis raged in the neighboring country. In this district, the local population and the immigrants seem to live in good harmony, but it is enough to move away from a few streets to realize the acrimony felt by the Dominicans towards the Haitians.
< p class="e-p">Anyone who finds themselves in an irregular situation in a country has two choices, says a shopkeeper in front of her shop. He must legalize himself or he must leave.
We are in a precarious situation, adds a passer-by in a commercial street for wealthy customers. Unfortunately, we are not rich enough to support so many people.
Violence and the humanitarian crisis in Haiti continue to drive thousands of Haitians to flee to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican authorities say they are overwhelmed. The government launched a massive program of evictions. And the president has undertaken the construction of a 160 km wall to block migrants. An approach that resembles racism, according to the United Nations, but that seems to support the Dominican population. Report by Sylvain Desjardins.
Many Dominicans now fear a Haitian invasion like the one that happened in 1822 and lasted about 20 years.
What is happening right now is that we are under a lot of pressure from developed countries, adds a resident of Santo Domingo. There is a theory that I believe in, which says that the United States, France and Canada want to unite the two countries to make one on our island.
At the last official census, there were more than half a million people of Haitian descent in the country, the vast majority living in the capital. The total population of the country is 11 million. Dominicans broadly support the government's strong method of giving police greater powers to deport undocumented Haitians.
Construction site of the wall separating Haiti from the Dominican Republic.
Last February, when he kicked off the construction of the wall along his country's border with Haiti with great fanfare, Dominican President Luis Abinader said that once completed at the end of the year, the The book would help control illegal immigration and crime. The reinforced concrete wall, topped with barbed wire, 4 meters high, will have 70 watchtowers spread over a distance of 160 kilometers.
Ironically, these are in good part of the illegal Haitians who are working on the construction of this wall.
Jose Horacio Rodriguez, Dominican opposition deputy
I don't believe that building a wall is the solution, says left-wing opposition MP Jose Horacio Rodriguez. This new barrier will simply allow the soldiers at the border to ask migrants for more money. Yes, I am talking about corruption.
The international community has been denouncing for several weeks the aggressive attitude of the authorities towards Haitian migrants. The US government announced a boycott of Dominican sugar in retaliation. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights refers to a form of xenophobia.
The opposition member of the National Legislative Assembly, Jose Horacio, speaks of hypocrisy. If we were to expel all Haitian migrants from our country, who would work in our fields to produce our food? Who would work in our countless construction sites in the capital Santo Domingo?
The vast majority of Haitians present in the Dominican Republic live in an illegal situation. For all sorts of reasons. Many were hired by contractors who promised to help them regularize their status. Some received student visas or work permits for a limited period and failed to obtain renewals. Others had approached the Dominican consulates in Haiti, but had given up in the face of interminable waiting times.
The majority of Haitians here do not have proper papers because that the Dominican State puts up barriers, does not facilitate the process of regularization, affirms Roudy Joseph, member of the Collective Haitians and Haitian women organized in the Dominican Republic.
Bridget Wooding, Director of the OBMICA Research Group
There is only one way to make things happen, to alert public opinion, according to Bridget Wooding, director of the Caribbean Migrant Observatory, an international research group that has storefront in Santo Domingo.
For this researcher, Dominican leaders have an interest in understanding as soon as possible that the attention of the international press and the reprimands of the United Nations are harming the image of the country. This is not a good thing for tourism, an industry that is one of the pillars of the Dominican economy.
Indeed, the economic health of the Dominican Republic depends both on its good reputation and on its Haitian workforce. If nothing changes, the island country with heavenly beaches risks losing both.