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#713: OPPOSITION WANTS TO DISCUSS HAITIAN SMUGGLING CRISIS (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
OPPOSITION WANTS TO DISCUSS HAITIAN SMUGGLING CRISIS
Roseau, Oct 10, 1999 (EFE) -- Opposition politicians in Dominica are
pressing to get Parliament to discuss a Haitian-smuggling "crisis" when it
meets on Monday.
Leader of the opposition Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) Charles Savarin
says he plans to raise the issue because the Haitians spell trouble for
Dominica's small traders and fishermen.
Scores of Haitians are coming to Dominica, apparently as tourists
visiting a fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member country, then
slipping out of the country at night on Dominican boats making an illegal
run to one of the French islands - Guadeloupe of Martinique - to find
better economic opportunities.
Some of those caught by the Dominican authorities have been deported,
but some lucky ones have been allowed to work in the agricultural sector
here. Others have died on the perilous trip.
The authorities in Guadeloupe say they have recovered the bodies of
four Haitians from a group whose boat capsized last week on an illegal
When the House of Assembly meets, Savarin has a question addressed to
Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Legal Affairs, Immigration and
Labor Edison James.
Savarin wants to know "when did (James) become aware of the practice
(of Haitian smuggling), whether he recognizes or has given any
consideration to the danger that ... the smuggling of Haitians into
Martinique ... will pose to Dominican fishermen and Dominican hucksters on
the high seas between Martinique and Guadeloupe, as the French authorities
in Martinique and Guadeloupe seek to protect their borders from Haitian
Martinique and Guadeloupe are major markets for agricultural
commodities from Dominica, and hucksters ply the waters between the
neighboring French territories weekly to conduct their business.
Savarin said he fears that the smuggling problem may cause the French
coast guard to intercept innocent Dominican fishermen and hucksters who
travel on legitimate business.
He said the Dominican government was sending the wrong signals to
Martinique by not cracking down on the Haitians, but fining Dominican
boatmen involved in the smuggling.
"I believe that the government of Dominica has a primary responsibility
to Dominicans first and they cannot seek to fine and seize the property of
Dominicans, while mollycoddling persons who have come here for the purpose
of violating the laws of Dominica," he said.
Savarin said he is sympathetic to the plight of Haitians in their own
country, but he argues that "when a person enters your country for the
purpose of violating the law, then you cannot accept or adopt a position
of condoning the violation of the laws of your country."
Meanwhile, Dominica Police Commissioner Simon Darroux says the French
authorities have accused Dominica of facilitating the smuggling of
However, he said Dominican police have been in communication with their
French counterparts, alerting them about vessels which the Dominican Coast
Guard was unable to intercept.
Although the police chief has admitted that there is a smuggling ring
involved in illegally transporting Haitians from Dominica, he has said
that immigration authorities are unable to stop the scores of Haitians who
enter the country weekly, flying through Puerto Rico, since they are now
considered citizens of the Caribbean Community and do not require entry
In addition, Darroux said the Haitians who arrive aboard American Eagle
flights from Puerto Rico carry legitimate documents including return
tickets and enough money to support their stay while in Dominica.
Upon entry at the airport, the Haitian visitors are given the usual
one-month permission to stay, but many are sneaked out by boats which
leave from the island's northern coast to cross the 24 nautical mile
channel between Guadeloupe and Dominica.
The police have deported dozens of Haitians who were caught attempting
to slip off the island, were without proper travel documents or who had
overstayed their welcome, while a small group has been able to find
employment in the agricultural sector here.