Friday Update: DR forces resume deportation hunt
Dominico-Haitians now in border camps: ‘They are all traumatized and malnourished’
Human rights agency the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is ramping up national attention to the growing crisis at the Haitian border, as increasing thousands of people of Haitian descent are now fleeing or being deported from the Dominican Republic.
Cambridge-based UUSC today launched a nationwide campaign urging Secretary of State John Kerry to pressure the Dominican Republic to halt its forced deportation of people of Haitian descent.
UUSC and other advocates internationally say the human rights crisis is fueled by longstanding racism, and that so far, little has been done by the Haitian government to materially assist the flow of traumatized people.
In a national e-mail campaign, UUSC President and Chief Executive Officer Rev. William Schulz described the situation as “racist targeting” and “a moral outrage.”
“So far, despite wielding huge influence in the DR, the U.S. government has done virtually nothing publicly to stop this human rights disaster. Secretary Kerry can — and should — use that influence to convince the Dominican government to put the brakes on this crisis,” UUSC’s Schulz continued.
Now deemed stateless by the Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitian and Haitian-descent families and vulnerable unaccompanied children are being forced to migrate to Haiti, a country still rebuilding from its devastating 2010 earthquake.
Current reports indciate some 66,000 people now have either fled to or been deported by the DR into Haiti.
Emigrés are living in makeshift tents on the Haiti side of the border— facing hunger, unemployment, homelessness and being separated from loved ones and familiar communities in the DR, where many have spent much or all of their lives and only speak Spanish.
UUSC is working now in Haiti with its local partner Foundation Zanmi Timoun, focusing particularly on reintegration assistance to unaccompanied children and other vulnerable returnees. UUSC and Zanmi Timoun say those they have assessed “are all traumatized and malnourished.”
DR resumes active search for deportation subjects
In July, the Dominican Republic announced it was pausing its deportation plans. But on Friday, Dominican authorities openly and actively resumed patrols to detain and deport migrants who lack documents.
“If the government follows through on its deportation plans, hundreds of thousands more will be forced from their homes,” said Schulz.
UUSC is urging that the Department of State should do the following:
- Formally announce its concern about human rights violations
- Publicly request an immediate halt to the Dominican Republic’s deportation plans
- Announce an inquiry into human rights abuses that may have already taken place
- Commit to the department working with regional partners to ensure that people of Haitian descent are treated with respect and dignity
- Call for the Dominican Republic to restore birthright citizenship to those who lost it
UUSC Response Update on Dominican Deportations
Response focus: Vulnerable children, basic survival and health needs
In mid-July UUSC partner in Haiti Foundation Zanmi Timoun surveyed the status of all children alone or with parents who are victims of the Dominican deportation wave and who have come to the communities of Belladère and the Village Fund Bayard — two border points strongly affected by the migrant wave.
UUSC Associate Director for Program and Partner Support Chara Itoka reports that, in meetings with new arrivals, many of the forced emigrés felt misled and said Dominican agents and Dominican media told them, “Michel Martelly, our president, asked for us.”
The UUSC partner’s assessment team met with community leaders, local and state authorities, and with groups of incoming families to assess vulnerable children, including newborns, orphans, unaccompanied children, children with physical or mental disabilities and teenage mothers. It found the following:
- As of the end of July, no mechanism or permanent reception structure had been set up by the government of Haiti, nor was there an agent or committee formed to receive returnees at the borders at Belladère and Malpasse.
- Children have no IDs. UUSC and Zanmi Timoun say that such action should be initiated by the Haitian government through the Office of Civil Belladère State.
- In terms of health, children and families are very vulnerable. So far, there is no community mobile clinic established to serve this growing, traumatized population that is now showing signs of malnutrition.
- Returnees are in a highly vulnterable setting: they have either temporary, makeshift tents or no shelter. If they can afford to lease part of a house, the typical rent is $500 gourdes (US $9.61) a month. Most individuals and families left income sources and everything behind.
- There is no special care for repatriated children.
For comparison, the UUSC-Zanmi Timoun assessment team also visited Haitian government-supported provisions for returnees in the village of Fond Parisien, at the Malpasse border. The nongovernmental organization team said the situation there is similar to that in Belladère: “All border points face the same reality,” they said.
In mid-July Fond Parisien had about 700 families living in precarious situations, with children that Zanmi Timoun described as “very vulnerable.”