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Dominican Republic: Mass deportations of Haitians must stop
January 12, 2011

Dominican Republic: Mass deportations of Haitians must stop
"We understand these actions to be not only ineffective in preventing the progression of the epidemic, but we also recognize that the mass expulsions undermine the rule of law, resulting in the violation of human rights of these Haitian migrants, promoting racial profiling of both the Haitian migrant population and of Dominicans of Haitian descent," JRS said in a statement.

(Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) January 12, 2011 – Last week the Dominican Republic launched its first major crackdown on illegal Haitian immigrants since last year's devastating earthquake, rounding up and deporting hundreds of people, the Miami Herald reported. Human rights groups criticized the deportations, accusing authorities of stopping and questioning people based on their physical appearance.

"The acting authorities are clearly following a racial profile to decide who should be detained," said Francisco Leonardo of Jesuit Refugee Service – Dominican Republic.

Fritz Cineas, Haiti’s ambassador in the Dominican Republic, told the Associated Press that he recognized the country’s right to deport illegal immigrants but asked that their rights be respected.

"Allow those who have children to tell their families goodbye, and be careful not to deport Haitians who have school-age children," he said.

The Dominican Republic agreed in a 1999 bilateral protocol to allow deportees to gather their belongings and not be separated from their families. The country also agreed to halt deportations after nightfall and on weekends.

Human rights groups fear Dominican officials will soon try other tactics to round up Haitian migrants.

"Neighborhood raids are next," said Gloria Amezquita, of Jesuit Refugee Service. She told the Associated Press that officials are not allowing some migrants detained to contact relatives so they can present their papers.

Jesuit Refugee Service – Dominican Republic decries the mass deportations carried out in various parts of the Dominican Republic by the Directorate General of Immigration on the grounds that the deportations will prevent cholera.

"We understand these actions to be not only ineffective in preventing the progression of the epidemic, but we also recognize that the mass expulsions undermine the rule of law, resulting in the violation of human rights of these Haitian migrants, promoting racial profiling of both the Haitian migrant population and of Dominicans of Haitian descent," JRS said in a statement.

JRS reminds Dominican immigration authorities that the raids and other violations of the right to personal liberty are prohibited by the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Constitution of the Dominican Republic. 

JRS also notes that the Migration Act does not give the Department of Immigration the power to inspect public carriers {trucks hauling goods and/or buses carrying passengers} or to force the drivers and conductors of public carriers to act as immigration agents, denying transportation to people suspected of being foreign and who do not submit immigration documents. 

JRS likewise denounces the lack of due process during repatriations. Authorities are clearly engaging in racial profiling in deciding who should be arrested:  JRS has observed many cases where authorities fail to even check the documents of individuals before leading them off buses and subjecting them to detention. 

It is unacceptable to continue to violate the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence, freedom of movement and non-discrimination which have been ignored during these mass deportations. These operations do not meet the criteria to avoid separation of families, protection of property, and confiscation of legal documentation. Dominican authorities have also failed to report planned mass expulsions within a reasonable time for Haitian consular officials to prepare Haiti to receive expelled persons.  

Futhermore the detention center in Santo Domingo where many Haitian migrants are being held in preparation for deportation fails to respect basic human rights principles. Detention authorities do not give adequate food to detained Haitians, nor do they keep a register of immigrants detained. Outside of the capital, in the Cibao region, JRS has confirmed that the arrested immigrants are repatriated immediately without any vetting of those rounded-up. Those arrested therefore have no opportunity to certify that they are in the process of regularization, or have ambiguous nationality, or specific vulnerabilities that should be considered.  

JRS finds that the Dominican authorities have failed to implement the most basic practices to protect the human dignity of individuals. These deportations have severe procedural and substantive problems, ranging from failure to respect the right to access legal assistance for those targeted to gross overcrowding of state vehicles used to execute the deportations. 

JRS calls on the immigration authorities of the country to design and implement a clear immigration policy, consistent with the reality of migration in the country and to dynamically integrate the practices and procedures of the responsible institutions. 

Finally, JRS–DR asks that the Dominican state implement the Reorganization Plan for Foreigners laid out in Article 151 of the General Law of Migration.



Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communications@jrsusa.org
202-462-0400 ext. 5946