Human Rights Delegation Encounters Hundreds Fleeing the Dominican Republic into Haiti in Harrowing Conditions
July 20, 2015
On 25 June 2015, a delegation of nine human rights lawyers and law students from the United States, Haiti, and Canada visited the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR). Over just four hours, the delegation witnessed hundreds of people crossing between Eliás Piña (DR) and Belladère (Haiti), in the context of the continuing DR citizenship crisis.
Delegation members were drawn from the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
The delegation observed approximately 400 passengers aboard five buses entering into Haiti from the DR during the four hours it spent at a single border crossing. The passengers were overwhelmingly young men, although others were much older. The buses included a few young boys, girls, and infants. None of the adults the delegation spoke with were born in the DR. Nearly all of their children, however, were. Fewer than 10 percent of those aboard the buses were female.
Based on direct observations and interviews with approximately 30 persons, the delegation made the following findings:
- The majority of people were not leaving voluntarily. People crossing the border tended to initially describe themselves as leaving voluntarily, but then also reported having experienced threats and other pressures to leave the DR, sometimes from DR authorities. These individualized fears were compounded by a broader climate of persecution of those perceived as Haitian by the Dominican government, which induced many of those with whom we spoke into states of panic. Most left their livelihoods and/or members of their families behind.
- The numbers suggested underreporting. Haitian officials neither registered nor accounted for most of the passengers. This suggests that existing deportation and flight statistics do not account for the true numbers.
- Those exiting the DR had been there for many years. Interviewees had generally spent two to eight years in the DR, although others had been there longer, for example one person had not left the DR since the 1970s. Many had children who had been born in the DR who were not accompanying them.
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