Following increased efforts to apprehend undocumented Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, the US embassy warned darker-skinned American tourists that they could be profiled or detained in the Caribbean country, according to the Miami Herald.
However, the Dominican government denies this. The response comes after the US embassy in Santo Domingo stated that local media outlets are reporting on a campaign in which Dominican migration officials are targeting and detaining individuals they suspect of being in the country illegally. The majority of those detained are said to be of Haitian descent.
The embassy warned that “these actions may result in increased interaction with Dominican authorities, particularly for darker-skinned US citizens and US citizens of African descent.” “There are reports that detainees are held in overcrowded detention centers without the ability to challenge their detention and without access to food or restroom facilities for days at a time, sometimes for days at a time, before being released or deported to Haiti.”
However, Dominican authorities responded that the warning issued by the US Embassy on Saturday is “manifestly unfounded and untimely.” The warning also taints the two countries’ “excellent bilateral relationship,” according to the Caribbean nation’s foreign affairs ministry.
“Our country is the first trading partner of the United States in the Caribbean and the sixth in Latin America. We have been one of America’s most trusted allies in maintaining a free, open, prosperous, and secure international system for all nations,” the Sunday statement added.
President Louis Abinader signed an official order in early November supporting large deportations and the establishment of a police unit to investigate non-Dominicans who were illegally staying in the country. However, Haitian nationals, in collaboration with the United Nations and human rights organizations, have condemned Dominican authorities for their treatment of foreigners by Dominican police. Videos purportedly show the Caribbean country’s police force physically assaulting Haitian nationals.
Prior to the issuance of President Abinader’s decree, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, asked the Dominican Republic and other neighboring countries to stop deporting people to Haiti due to the country’s current human rights and humanitarian issues, according to the Miami Herald.
“I am troubled to see that forced returns of Haitians to Haiti from the Dominican Republic are continuing,” said Turk. “Unremitting armed violence and systematic human rights violations in Haiti do not currently allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country. I reiterate my call to all countries in the region, including the Dominican Republic, to halt the deportation of Haitians.”
Even though the US has condemned the treatment of undocumented migrants, it has not called for deportations to Haiti to be halted. Between July and October 2022, Dominican authorities deported 43,900 Haitians. However, the country’s foreign ministry stated that the Biden administration has also deported undocumented migrants.
“The Dominican Republic can’t take it anymore,” said the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Relations. The ministry also said that the Biden administration, which is taking issue with their deportations, also deported over 20,000 Haitian nationals between February 2021 and February 2022, per the Miami Herald.
According to the ministry, the Dominican president’s administration has “repeatedly and systematically denounced before the international community the alarming situation in Haiti, aggravated since President [Jovenel] Moise’s assassination,” which has a negative impact on the Dominican Republic’s national security. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola.
“Without the support of the international community, we have made an extraordinary effort to keep the border open to allow the Haitian population access to vital food, medicine, fuel, water, etc. Likewise, we have kept the commercial flow open, despite the number of kidnappings of Dominicans, including a diplomat from our embassy in Haiti,” the statement said. “Our armed forces unilaterally bear the high cost of providing security to the entire border between the two countries, maintaining some 9,000 troops in that place.”