AJWS Partners Respond to Crisis in the Dominican Republic

 

AJWS Partners Respond to Crisis in the Dominican Republic

November 6, 2008

AJWS grantees call for the cessation of brutal xenophobic violence that erupted this week against Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic's northwest border towns. This violence is reminiscent of similar waves of aggression in the country in 2005. This latest outbreak was sparked by fury at the alleged killing of a Dominican citizen by a Haitian in Guayubin last week and it elicited a fiery reprisal that reduced at least 25 shanties in Guayubin to ashes on October 29th. The incident punctuates a period of forced deportation, looting and violence, in which Dominican authorities have sent as many as 10,000 Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent back to the poorer neighboring country.

AJWS grantee, Movement of Haitian and Dominico-Haitian Women (MUDHA), reports that even people of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic are being expelled by migration officials despite possession of legal documentation including birth certificates, work permits, visas and permanent resident cards issued by the Dominican authorities. Immigrants are being indiscriminately targeted for arrest, attacked and forced from their homes. The organization has received reports from southern communities that hooded men armed with baseball bats are entering Haitian residences, looting and beating family members.

MUDHA is seeking relief aid to help community members get to safety. A staff member who has been working in the bateyes (sugarcane-raising communities) and other affected areas describes the disturbing scenes:

The authorities accompanied by groups of people burst into homes breaking doors. While they arrest the people, the others steal their belongings. The people are taken barefooted; they are not allowed to gather their belongings, and there is family separation. Women and children are the greatest among the victims: there are a lot of children without their parents.

MUDHA and two other AJWS grantees, Movimiento Social-Cultural de los Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA) and Jacques Viau Dominican Haitian Network (REDH-JV), are responding to the crisis collaboratively. They are working on both sides of the border to provide immediate aid, including food, water and clothing to those that have been deported or left homeless. They are offering legal counseling to victims, documenting human rights violations and providing information to reporters, representatives of the Organization of American States, officials of the U.S. embassy and others.

Since 2001, AJWS has partnered with community-based agencies throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic on human rights and sustainable community-development projects that are designed, implemented and managed by the organized poor. AJWS's grantmaking in the region is guided by the recognition that community development and lasting peace on the island of Hispaniola will never be achieved without strong efforts to build civil society. Grants in the region are driven by the priorities of Haitian-Dominican communities struggling to secure basic civil and political rights and legal protections. 

This work is critical, as Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a tenuous and often conflict-ridden relationship, strained by poverty, poor health and disparate distribution of wealth. Weak social and government institutions and a struggling economy have kept 30% of Dominicans below poverty levels; poverty and HIV rates in some populations are consistent with the poorest African countries. Approximately 1 million Haitians and their descendants live in the Dominican Republic, seeking better economic opportunity. These immigrants and their descendants, the majority of whom are not legally recognized by the government, are subject to extreme vulnerability and unjustified deportations. They routinely experience racial discrimination, and are denied the full enjoyment of their human rights, including access to social services such as healthcare and education.

AJWS Partners Working for Change

MOSCTHA
Movimiento Social-Cultural de los Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA) has worked since 1985 to contribute to the economic, social and cultural improvement of Haitian immigrants and their descendants in bateyes (sugarcane-raising communities) and marginalized neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. The organization has developed various community-development programs, including human rights education, legalization for Haitian immigrants and their families, preventative health and housing. 

MUDHA
Since its founding in 1983, the Movement of Haitian and Dominico-Haitian Women (MUDHA) has been committed to the defense of the human dignity of Haitian immigrants and their descendants living in bateyes, with particular emphasis on children and women's rights. MUDHA's program areas include advocating for policy reform, legal defense of the rights of minorities, immigrants, women and children, provision of community health services and gender equity building.

REDH-JV
Red de Encuentro Dominico Haitiano "Jacques Viau" (Jacques Viau Dominican Haitian Network, or REDH-JV) responds to the systematic exclusion of and discrimination toward Haitian immigrants and their descendants by maintaining an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocate for the political, social, and economic rights of Haitians and Dominico Haitians to carry out community-based development programs. Its members provide legal assistance to Haitian immigrants in Dominican jails, obtain passports for Dominico Haitian citizens, and work to build cooperation and trust between the two communities.