Supporting Haitian Migrants and Dominicans of Haitian Descent

_MG_3591Many Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent work in low-wage jobs on the country’s sugar and banana plantations, or as construction workers or laborers in the informal economy. They reside in bateyes—poor districts that were established to house sugar plantation laborers and their families. Because Haitians and their descendents are often denied citizenship rights by the government, they are not entitled to social services, and so the bateyes often lack public schools, health clinics and other critical facilities.

AJWS grantee Movimiento Socio Cultural para los Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA) is one of just a few organizations providing crucial support to this community. For more than two decades, MOSCTHA has served more than 30 bateyes as the sole provider of health care, legal assistance and elementary and secondary education for thousands of residents.

To address critical health needs in the impoverished slums, MOSCTHA runs a mobile clinic and a hospital to increase residents’ access to health services. It focuses on youth, who are at a heightened risk for a variety of infectious diseases. All of MOSCTHA’s facilities offer primary care, family planning education, reproductive health services and HIV testing and treatment. MOSCTHA also raises awareness about HIV and methods for prevention by training volunteer “health promoters” who work in the community, going door-to-door to talk with people and educate them.

MOSCTHA runs a variety of workshops—on women’s empowerment, legal aid, human rights and laws related to migration, citizenship and workers’ rights. MOSCTHA has trained hundreds of community volunteers to provide continuous peer education on these topics. Thanks to their efforts, an increasing number of the people they serve have obtained legal residency status or passports. MOSCTHA also spawned a labor union, the Mutual Society of Sugarcane Workers, which pursues equal rights for Dominico-Haitain workers and offers them health insurance, life and death benefits and loans to start small businesses.

In the last two years, MOSCTHA has emerged as a leader of the legal battle for citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent. It has documented denial of papers and access to state services and brought cases to international courts to pressure the Dominican government to acknowledge the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent in accordance with international law.