U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Dominican Republic

An estimated half-million Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin were believed to be residing in the Dominican Republic in 1996. Relatively few had regularized their residence status, and the lack of documentation had rendered many of the children and grandchildren of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic stateless. There were 607 registered refugees, mostly Haitians and a few Cubans, in the Dominican Republic in 1996. Many Haitians work in the sugar cane plantations, known as batayes, where conditions generally are poor and abuse common. In recent years, the army has often conducted round-ups of persons suspected of being undocumented Haitians. According to a 1996 report by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), these round-ups have two purposes: to provide forced labor for the sugar industry at harvest time, and to deport Haitians after the harvest when labor demand declines. NCHR reported that the round-ups are highly arbitrary, often based solely on skin color (which sometimes leads to the deportation of Haitians with valid visas and work permits as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent), and characterized by the arbitrary confiscation of belongings and documents and by verbal and physical abuse. The Dominican Republic has a Department of Migration in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but defers actions regarding Haitian repatriation to the army and national police. In interviews with NCHR, both the director-general of migration and the head of the army said that round-ups and immigration control actions are conducted on the army's own initiative without informing or consulting with the Department of Migration. Partly in response to hundreds of forced repatriations of Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1995, IOM announced an emergency program in August 1995 to assist repatriating Haitians to return and reintegrate into their home communities in Haiti. During 1996, IOM assisted 1,213 Haitians in returning from the Dominican Republic. Despite IOM's involvement in facilitating voluntary repatriation, forced repatriation continued in 1996. Often, Haitian nationals were part of an ongoing cycle in which they were returned, then crossed into the Dominican Republic, only to be returned again.

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