Update: Border Crisis
Back in June we shared with you the impending crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic where tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian decent faced potential deportation to a country not their own. Fast forward to today, and while no mass exodus has occurred, the Dominican Republic has already deported approximately 1500 people at a rate of 50-100 per day. Thousands more have fled on their own, “out of fear of arrest or harassment, scared by neighbors, bosses, coworkers and police or immigration officials,” [source].According to the Jesuit Refugee Service, as of September 19th, nearly 2500-3000 people were living in four informal Haitian refugee settlements that have sprung up along the southern border of Haiti. Undoubtedly, that number has grown since then. In an interview with Dana de Greff of the Miami New Times, award-winning Haitian novelist Edwidge Danticat (who visited two of these camps–one in Malpasse and the other in Anse-à-Pitres–in late summer), remarked, “It’s a really horrible situation in which people are in the most terrible sort of limbo you can imagine. The Dominican Republic says that many of the people in the camps have voluntarily returned, but if you talk to them they say that the law has empowered their neighbors to threaten them. Others were picked up by the police and were dropped at the border. In some cases women were abused. The majority of the people in the camps are people who don’t know Haiti at all, who speak mostly Spanish.”
This immigration crisis is not the only issue festering between the two island-sharing countries. Markets have been closed on both sides of the border in recent weeks as a issues of trade and transportation have recently dominated the headlines, affecting the lives of countless people in both countries.
On October 13, 2015, Haiti’s president Martelly and President Danilo Medino of the Dominican Republic came together for a meeting and left agreeing on “six points for the benefit of both countries,” [source]. These points include trade, border development, repatriation of illegal immigrants, and maintaining communication between authorities of both countries and diplomatic relations. They have also committed to implementing a signed customs agreement “which includes technical assistance and information exchange between customs systems,” [source].
The Haitian government also agreed to send a new ambassador to the Dominican Republic while the DR committed to returning an ambassador to Haiti. Within 15 days of this meeting both parties agreed to reconvene to discuss the 23 product ban Haiti imposed at the border (see list of items banned from DR here). The aim of this meeting is to enhance trade and the standardization of land transport between countries.
While this meeting did not directly address the complexity of the border crisis at hand, it does mark a step towards better communication and resolution between Haiti and the D.R. This in itself is just the beginning to answering our original prayer for those caught in the midst of statelessness and a long journey of discord between two countries sharing a border and a history. Let’s continue to pray this prayer…
On behalf of the thousands of people facing statelessness in the D.R., let’s join together in prayer. May they be given the citizenship and dignity they deserve. May the legacy of racism and violence towards Haitians be broken. Let’s pray to end the brokenness between the D.R. and Haiti, asking the Holy Spirit to speak truth and wisdom into the hearts of those who hold the fate of many in their hands.
See our original post about the Haitian/D.R. crisis here.