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7189: DR/Haiti - Paraison suggests an amnesty (fwd)

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

February 28th - The Haitian Consul to Barahona, Edwin Paraison, today 
suggested to the Dominican Republic authorities that they apply an 
immigration amnesty programme to benefit those Haitians who have lived in 
the DR for a certain length of time.

In the course of his address at the conference "Dominican bateys: a new 
reality" organised by Batey Relief Alliance, at the Dag Hammarskjold 
Auditorium, United Nations, New York, the Haitian Consul solemnly declared 
that there are no other alternatives that can at the same time guarantee:
the mutual interest that the two countries have in maintaining fraternal 
relations and cooperation; the safeguarding of the real interests of each 
State; and respect for the international conventions to which the two 
nations are signatories.

Paraison highlighted the evolution of the relations between the two 
countries which have, in his opinion, shown clear improvements in spite of 
the difficulties in managing the migration question. The, at times, deadly 
violence against Haitian citizens by Dominican soldiers during operations to 
check for illegal immigrants has been a source of crisis between the two 
governments during the Nineties.

In addition, he mentioned some recent progress made with a view to improving 
the conditions of recruiting the Haitian sugar cane cutters. Paraison 
mentioned as examples: the ending of the systematic policy of recruiting 
sugar cane cutters, the extreme scarcity of the cases of the use of child 
labour from Haiti, the handing-over of individual work contracts to the 
workers, the effort to reduce abuses at the cane weighing stations, and 
President Hipolito Mejia's recent publicising of the fight against the 
poverty in the bateys.

According to Paraison, Haitian workers are no longer confined exclusively to 
the bateys, and are currently found in other sectors such as agriculture and 
construction, thus making an enormous contribution to the Dominican economy. 
He pointed out that "In fact, rather than constituting a burden for the 
Dominican Republic as is often stated, on the contrary, they take part in 
the increase in agricultural production and in the development of this 
country's infrastructure."

The Haitian civil servant, who spoke in a personal capacity, was the 
recipient of the Anti-Slavery International human rights prize in 1994. 
Paraison highlighted the political will of the current heads of State on the 
island, Hipolito Mejia and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who, in their respective 
visions, define relations between the two countries as "a marriage without 
divorce" and "the two wings of the same bird".

The migration problem should constitute their No.1 priority for, a total 
solution of it is a precondition for the continuation of cooperation in 
other domains. Paraison added, "it is necessary, for the sake of public 
opinion in the two countries, to take steps to demonstrate our determination 
to make progress".

To achieve this goal, he exhorted the two governments to renew their 
engagement inter alia:
- To apply in a strict and urgent way the agreements on the methods of 
repatriation and recruiting.
- To clamp down on all infringements by immigration agents or soldiers 
against people carrying legal travel documents.
- To control the repatriations operations so that they are directed by 
immigration agents deployed for this purpose and not by soldiers or police 
- To activate investigations and legal proceedings regarding the cases of 
Haitian citizens in the DR and Dominicans in Haiti who have died as a result 
of military or police violence
- To ensure adequate training of the police agents or soldiers at border 
posts the border to guarantee that fire arms are only used when lives are in 

Other panelists at the conference included the Dominican academic, Ruben 
Silie, and the Executive Director of the State Sugar Council (CEA), Victor 
Manuel Baez.
An audience of approximately 200 people included representatives of human 
rights organisations, groups working on Haitian issues in DR and 
personalities from several countries. Edwidge Danticat, author of several 
works, including those concerning the situation of Haitians in the DR 
participated in the role of conference moderator.

(original sent by Max Blanchet in French - translated to English by Charles 
Arthur for the Haiti Support Group)

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