Video: The ‘hunt’ for Haitian migrants continues in the Dominican Republic
A video of a young child hanging from the arms of a detained Haitian woman through the barred door of an immigration control truck in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was published in early June. The country’s migration director later dismissed the agent seen in the video. According to human rights groups, Haitians regularly face violent and arbitrary arrests. Every month, thousands of them are deported, despite calls from the UN to halt these forced removals.
In early June, videos taken in the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo began circulating on Twitter. They show a young child hanging from the arms of a detained woman through the barred door of an immigration control truck, while an immigration agent simply watches. The vehicle then drives off.
¿Dónde está Juan Ramón Rodríguez García? Un agente desvinculado de @MigracionRDo que no figura en la nómina ni en la consulta de Contraloría. ¿Cómo se permite la contratación de personal sin preparación en migración? Exijamos transparencia y calidad en nuestras instituciones. pic.twitter.com/1c7TKVgJBl
— Cañeros Organizados (@EsclavizadosRD) June 5, 2023
Vidéo tournée à Saint-Domingue, en République dominicaine, début juin.
On social media, some said they believed the incident was an “isolated case”. Others made racist comments towards Haitians in the Dominican Republic. But many Internet users were also shocked by the disturbing scene.
Las redadas migratorias en República Dominicana se han convertido en una jauría humana, sin límites.
¿Quién podrá exigir los derechos humanos en República Dominicana de la comunidad migrante y sus descendientes? pic.twitter.com/efpyDZyEoc
— Cañeros Organizados (@EsclavizadosRD) June 2, 2023
Another video filmed in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, in early June, showing the same incident.
In the face of criticism, the Dominican Republic’s migration director said that the immigration agent seen in the video had been dismissed, pointing to a “lack of tact” and “arbitrary behaviour” on his part.
The migration department also told the Observers team that the child in the video was returned to his mother “less than 23 metres away from the place where the video was taken”, and that the woman, “who has irregular status”, had not been deported to Haiti, “for humanitarian reasons”.
“The whole team should have been punished”
Manuel Maria Mercedes, from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH-RD), a Dominican NGO, told us that more should have been done.
The decision to fire the immigration agent was taken to give them a good image, both nationally and internationally, because the scene shocked people. But this agent was not alone: the whole team with him should have been punished. What’s more, according to our information, the woman and her child were sent back to Haiti.
Thousands of Haitians deported every month, against UN advice
Around half a million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, but many of them are undocumented or have irregular status.
Every month, thousands of Haitians are deported. Between 12 and 19 June, 4,973 Haitians were deported from the Dominican Republic, despite the calls of the UN to halt these forced removals because of the security, humanitarian, political and economic crisis in Haiti (watch our report “Haiti: In the grip of the gangs” below).
Human rights groups such as CNDH-RD have also criticised the violent and arbitrary nature of the arrests, as they don’t only affect people in irregular situations.
“Sometimes, people are arrested simply because they’re black”
When migration officers arrive at the places where Haitians live, they stand on street corners and arrest everyone who passes by, regardless of their status, sometimes just because they have black skin. Then they take them to centres, and they are deported from there. Sometimes they arrest mothers without giving them time to look for their children. This has meant that more than 500 children are alone in the Dominican Republic, without their parents.
Concerning deportations, the government has launched a witch-hunt, disregarding international agreements, the Constitution and the law on migration. We are not opposed to deportations, but they must be carried out in accordance with the rule of law.
malgre dam nan endispoze neg pa bal regle anyen pou yo nn kettt mesye Dirijan yo di on bgy pou peyi a nn mesye ????????????♂️????♂️
Video showing a woman being put into a van by immigration agents. It seems that she had lost consciousness before.
“This situation can be partly explained by the anti-Haitian discourse in the Dominican Republic”
Edwin Paraison, the Executive Director of the Zile Foundation, another Dominican organisation, has similar views.
Recently, we saw a man being manhandled and thrown into a van [see video below]: a priori, he was just a tourist. [Our editors were unable to verify this information from an independent source.]
Haitians living in Canada or the United States are frequently arrested when they travel to the Dominican Republic as tourists. Many no longer travel to Haiti because of the crisis, and so they travel to the Dominican Republic to see their relatives who have stayed behind. At the end of 2022, the American embassy issued a warning to African-American citizens about arrests based on their skin colour.
In 2021, there was also a scandal involving pregnant Haitian women who were arrested in hospitals and deported.
Communiqué From The Haitian Embassy In The Dominican Republic In 2021, Concerning Pregnant Women Sent Back To Haiti.
For over a year now, the police and military have also been involved in migration operations. This is problematic because they are not trained to deal with these matters… In addition to unjustified jostling and beatings, Haitians told us that soldiers had also stolen money and mobile phones when entering their homes.
Another problem is that migration officers sometimes demand money from arrested Haitians to free them, between 2,000 and 2,500 pesos [between 32 and 40 euros], inside the lorries.
In my opinion, this situation can be partly explained by the existence of an anti-Haitian discourse in the country among certain politicians, even though Haitian labour is vital in the agro-industry, construction, etc. For example, some people think that Haitians will end up outnumbering Dominicans. This view has gained ground in recent years and is putting the government under pressure, preventing it from managing the migration issue in a pragmatic and supportive way.
The Dominican Republic has already been seriously criticised on the international stage in the past. In 1937, for example, there was a massacre of Haitians. [More than 20,000 of them were killed after the Dominican president decided to eliminate those working on the country’s plantations.] Another example: in 2013, the Constitutional Court decided to withdraw Dominican nationality from people born between 1929 and 2013 to foreign parents.
Meanwhile, the Dominican government has said each country’s migration policy should be “the responsibility of each government” and that it does not want to be the “solution” to all of “Haiti’s problems”.
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