Haiti border crisis grows as Dominican Republic expels 'migrants'

Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:15am EDT
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By Peter Granitz

ANSE-à-PITRE, Haiti (Reuters) - Every morning, Gustavo Adolfo wakes up in a migrant shelter in Haiti, treks across a field of burnt brush where men make charcoal, and crosses a river into the Dominican Republic, a country he left in fear three months ago.

With a machete strapped to his waist, Adolfo is joined by others each day in a desperate effort to make a living. They cross the border into the wealthier Dominican Republic under constant threat of arrest or expulsion.

"I can make 200 pesos ($4.50) a day working in the fields there," said the middle-aged Haitian as he swatted away a swarm of mosquitoes.

Dominican officials last month began implementing a controversial immigration program targeting Haitian migrants and Dominican-born people of Haitian descent.

The program centers on round-ups and deportations that have triggered concerns about a slow-growing border migration crisis in the poorest country in the Americas.

So far about 1,500 people have been deported at a pace of 50 to 100 per day, according to relief officials with access to records supplied by the Dominican government. The officials asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the number of deportees.

Thousands more have fled the Dominican Republic out of fear of arrest or harassment, scared by neighbors, bosses, coworkers and police or immigration officials.

More than 27 percent of those crossing into Haiti say they were born in the Dominican Republic, according to Amnesty International. But they lack documents to prove residency or citizenship, and many are undocumented immigrants who say they have lived most of their lives on the Dominican side of the border.   Continued...

Haitians from Anse-a-Pitres and residents of refugee camps for Haitians returning from the Dominican Republic, attend Sunday mass at the camp on the outskirts of Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti, September 6, 2015.REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares