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#944: From Haitian Times on Dominican-Haitians
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
Dominican-Haitians fear mass deportation to Haiti
Haitian children working Cane fields
in the Dominican Republic.
NEIBA, Dominican Republic -- Sixty-six-year-old Andrea Remi has not left
the cane cutters migrant camp where she lives in years. She is afraid
Dominican soldiers will capture her and send her to Haiti, where she has
never been. "I have three kids-one is in Barahona, one is in the
capital. I have grandchildren there, but I can't go visit them," said
Remi, who watched over a covered pot of bread rolls, a makeshift oven,
which she set over flames of twigs and charcoal. She sells the rolls at
six cents a piece, and makes less than $4 a day. "You feel like a
prisoner, you can't go out," said Remi, who lives on Batey Isabel, a
rural camp of mud-caked huts and shabby wooden shacks, some 20 km east
of the town of Neiba in the province of Bahoruco.
Remi, like hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian ancestry,
lives a hunted life in her own homeland. The privatization of the state
sugar mills in September has made her situation more urgent. "We are
fearing the worst - a cleansing of the bateyes and sending back all the
people who are not Dominican," Pierre Ruquoy, a Belgian priest, who
works with the bateyes in Neiba, said. While Dominican authorities have
promised that the hundreds of thousands of people living on the more
than 200 cane-cutters camps will not be displaced, there have been
increasing signs of a crack-down.
"In some bateyes they have started to ask people to pay for their
houses," said Inoelia Remy Yautiel, of the Cultural Association of
Haitian Workers, an advocacy group that works with bateyes. "They are
already picking up people in the outskirts of the capital," said Remy,
who was born and raised on a batey in the Sabena Grande de Boya, an hour
from the capital. But Dominican Ambassador to Haiti, Silvio Herasme
Pena, said fears of a mass deportation are ill-founded. "There is no
reason to think that the traditional residents of bateyes will be
evicted. It would make no sense," Herasme Pena said. "What the state is
trying to do is prevent squatters from taking advantage of the situation
and taking over the land," he said.
But the Dominican army has recently carried out intimidating training
operations and raids on migrant camps. In June soldiers raided in broad
daylight the camp of Guazara, a village 10 kilometers from Barahona.
"They stole everything. They stole bags of rice, beans, tools,
everything the people had. Forced them to undress, and then made them
role around in the dust like donkeys," Ruquoy said. Soldiers brought the
families to the near-by barracks and asked those with Dominican I.D.
cards to step forward, promising that they would not be deported. When
the detainees presented their cards, the soldiers ripped them up
claiming they were false and deported the entire group. "They all came
back because they are all either born here, or have more than 20 years
here, but they were stripped of all their belonging and documents,"
In late June, soldiers wearing masks and carrying machine guns raided a
camp in the village of Paraiso in the dead of night. They chained the
men and attempted to rape the women, according to Ruquoy who reported on
the raids to the local Dominican newspapers. In August, soldiers in
Neiba rounded up Haitians or those who looked Haitian, from the streets
and placed them in prison in preparation for a mass deportation. "The
problem is that the Dominican I.D. card does not guarantee whether you
will be deported or not," Ruquoy said. With the Dominican economy
booming, and Haiti sinking deeper into poverty, Dominican authorities
fear a massive migration towards their country. Haiti's average annual
per capita income is $250. The Dominican Republic's per capita income is
Haitians are also afraid that as the Dominican Republic moves closer
towards its presidential election slated for May 2000, anti-Haitian
sentiment will be used as a political tool. With the massive lay off of
cane workers, all those living in the bateyes are worse off than ever.
Some have fled to the mountains to work for $3 a day on the coffee
plantations. Remi, who was born in 1933, needs her Dominican identity
card before she can step out of her camp to go visit her children. She
has been trying since she was 18 to get the card, but the anti-Haitian
campaign waged by then-dictator Leonidas Trujillo, made it impossible.
In 1937, Trujillo's war on Haitians peaked with the massacre of between
10,000 and 30,000 Haitians. For Haitians in today's Dominican Republic,
things have not gotten much easier. Haitians or children of Haitians who
wish to legalize their status must wade through a bureaucratic
nightmare, and gather 12 different documents-from hospital or clinic
birth certificates, a school certificate, church or parish certificate,
parents' marriage certificate, death certificates if parents are dead,
and letters from all relevant civil authorities. "The problem is not in
Santo Domingo, the problem is with Haitian disorganization," Herasme
Pena said. "In Haiti nobody is registered. In the Dominican Republic,
Haitians are also not registered," he said. He said any person who
reaches adulthood in the Dominican Republic without a legal I.D. must
provide proper documentation to prove his or her identity. Haitians are
predominantly unable to provide such proof.
"If you live legally in the Dominican Republic, your children have the
right to Dominican citizenship. If you live there illegally, your
children do not have the right to be Dominican," Herasme Pena said.
Seventy-year-old Lorore Saint Jeune, a voudou priest, who has lived in
the Dominican Republic since he left the Haitian town of St. Marc in
1958 says he is tired of the day-to-day discrimination and obstacles set
up against Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Saint Jeune, who is blind
and has 52 living children, has built a pinewood coffin and is preparing
to return with it to Haiti to die. He says life on the batey has become
too hard. "If I need to ask for charity, I prefer to go do it in my own
country," he said.
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