Raison d’être

Men transfer clothes from a Dominican truck to a Haitian truck along the border. I took this photo in 2013.

Men transfer clothes from a Dominican truck to a Haitian truck along the border. I took this photo in 2013.

In 2013 I lived for six months along the southernmost border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where I ran a grassroots journalism project. While I was there I saw border guards harass Haitian peasants crossing the border and I interviewed Haitian fishermen who had had their boats seized for allegedly fishing in Dominican waters.

But for the most part the two sides of the border benefited from one another. The Dominican town opened to Haitians twice a week for a market day on the Dominican side of the border and Haitians crossed over to do laundry and clean homes. Everyday, men on motorcycles would take ice across the border and sell it throughout the Haitian town of Anse-à-Pitres, which had limited electricity. Despite the fact that many Dominicans I spoke with had never crossed the border, many of the Dominican homes were built by Haitians and nearly all the ice in Anse-à-Pitres was Dominican.

Today, there are about 1,000 refugees from the Dominican Republic living on the Haitian side of the border, the French-language Haitian news site AlterPresse reports. The AlterPresse article says that these refugees do not have access to latrines or sufficient medical care. There are fears that diseases will spread in the camp.

These people came from the Dominican Republic. They faced deportation following a 2013 court ruling that stripped the citizenship of hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. Following an international outcry, the Dominican Republic gave these people until June 17 to register for legal residential status in the Dominican Republic. That deadline has come and gone, and now these people face official deportation and a culture of intimidation and fear.  The Dominican government has claimed the deportation process will be slow and deliberate, but there are reports that deportations have begun and more than 17,000 people have fled the Dominican Republic for Haiti.

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul has said that the Haitian government considers many of these people to be Dominicans and will not recognize them as Haitian citizens. There are hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent that have been stripped of their citizenship still in the Dominican Republic. This appears to be only the beginning of long-term humanitarian crisis.

I am going to maintain this blog to monitor English-, French-, Kreyòl- and Spanish-language reporting on this issue. I also hope to contribute some original reporting.

As I traveled on public buses from the border region where I lived toward Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, Dominican soldiers would periodically board the bus and single out dark-skinned people they believed were Haitians. They demanded to see their passports and spoke to them condescendingly. One time while I was in the market on the Dominican side of the border, I watched a Dominican border guard who was having a bad day threaten a Haitian teacher and community organizer by pointing a pistol at his head as the Haitian man’s children looked on.

The everyday racism I saw on the island has spiraled into a nightmare for thousands. I hope I can contribute to monitoring this crisis

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