Haiti PM slams ‘discriminatory’ Dominican migrant policy
The deportations took place over the past week since the Dominican Republic imposed the so-called National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners, which calls for non-citizens to complete registration to establish legal residency or else leave the country.
The scheme has inflamed long-standing tensions between the two nations, which share an island, and affects hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the Dominican Republic — about 90 percent of which are Haitian.
Many of the estimated 200,000 Haitian migrants who now face deportation rushed in after the devastating 2010 earthquake that displaced one million people and reduced much of the capital to rubble.
AFP spoke with Paul Thursday about the migrant crisis, which he warns could swell into a humanitarian disaster.
Question: Thousands of Haitian immigrants have been deported back to Haiti, and you have accused the Dominicans of using “doublespeak.” What do you mean by this?
A: “It’s clear that a massive repatriation has begun — 14,000 people in less than a week. It’s massive. The Dominican Republic said that it had not yet conducted the formal repatriation process, but we have still received Haitians as a result of the Dominican Republic’s immigration policy. This is fact and this is reality…
“Even before the end of the registration program, a doublespeak existed and was being used publicly.
“The foreign minister of the Dominican Republic said there would be no massive repatriation, in a tone that could have suggested there would be no major repatriations at all.
“On the other hand, there was a 45-day moratorium (on the policy) imposed from June 17, but then the Dominican Ministry of the Interior said something else.
“At that point, they were using doublespeak.”
Q: Haitian President Michel Martelly said Haiti would welcome the expelled migrants with open arms, but people who have arrived at the border say they have not received any support. Why were the president’s promises not fulfilled?
A: “There is state aid, but it is totally insufficient to handle the number of people arriving. Following statements from the Dominicans saying there would not be massive repatriations, we planned to receive about 3,000 people per week.
“But the number of arrivals today stands at 14,000. The situation is reminiscent of a humanitarian crisis. That’s the truth. But we want to avoid creating new communities of misery.”
Q: What will you do about the returnees who were unable to complete their registration with the Dominican authorities, were stripped of their nationality and are now stateless?
A: “We cannot address this at the bi-national level. The issues of statelessness exceeds the competence of the Haitian government.
“We must, at all costs, refer cases internationally, to the (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, the Organization for American States…
“The problem is that the Dominicans are using what I call subterfuge mix nationality and race. This is all to say anyone who is black is assumed to be Haitian, even if they were born in the Dominican Republic.
“That’s the environment he wants to create. I never used the word ‘racism’ in reference to this situation, I prefer to use the word ‘discrimination.'”