Religious institutions call for end to harassment of Haitians in Dominican Republic

Haitians being deported from the Dominican Republic. Photo: Vatican News

Over a hundred religious and social organisations from around the globe publicly denounce the “illegal and unjust treatment” of people of Haitian descent in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

By Sr. Francine-Marie Cooper *

In a joint statement, 127 religious and social organisations from the Spanish-speaking world have condemned the practices of the military and agents of the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) in the Dominican Republic.

According to the press release, Dominican authorities have used their position “to commit crimes against the physical integrity and wellbeing of the people they are supposed to protect.”

The statement speaks of a particular event, which took place on the night of Friday, March 15. The authorities allegedly “engaged in illegal and unjust practices against innocent families in Villa Guerrero, the community of Santa Lucia, and the township of Santa Cruz de El Seibo, in order to carry out supposed deportations of Haitians.”

Illegal deportations

The religious and social organisations especially denounced the severe traumatisation of children and pregnant women whom they say were kidnapped for the purpose of “deportation”.

They also condemned the “theft of money, mobile phones and other goods from the affected families, disguised as deportations by DGM and military agents.”

The Dominican authorities are also alleged to have used verbal and physical violence against these families, and to have harassed “persons with Dominican documentation and documentation accrediting their regular residence in the Dominican Republic.”

Violation of the country’s constitution

According to the statement, these practices are not in accordance with the constitution of the Dominican Republic.

The constitution promises in Article 39, that “for the Dominican State, all individuals are equal before the law and must receive the same protection and treatment for this reason, as they enjoy the same rights.”

It further specifies that “rights are enjoyed without any discrimination, ‘for reasons of gender, colour, age, disability, nationality, family ties, language, religion, political or philosophical opinion, social or personal condition.’ Among these rights is the right to due process (Art. 69) and not to be deprived of liberty arbitrarily or unreasonably (Art. 71).”

The statement lamented that the constitution has been violated by the Dominican Institutions and demanded “that the Dominican authorities put an immediate end to these practices that violate human rights and that they guarantee transparent and fair administrative processes for all people.”

The international organisations called on Dominican President Luis Abinader “to order an end to these practices often aimed at extortion and theft.”

At the UN General Assembly in September 2023, President Abinader spoke of the need to stand together and help each other, saying, “Either we fight together to save Haiti, or we will fight alone to protect the Dominican Republic.”

The joint statement of the 127 religious organisations pointed out “that this event, which took place in the early hours of Friday morning, was not aimed at ‘saving Haiti’, but neither was it aimed at ‘protecting the Dominican Republic’.”

The organisations furthermore invited the international community to help protect the rights of “these people, the weakest in Dominican society.”

* Vatican News