Dominican Republic Facts
Area:    48,730 sq. km.
Capital:    Santo Domingo
Total Population:    7,999,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Haitian descendants and immigrants in the Dominican Republic are socially discriminated against by the dominant Dominican society. The Dominican government has also been reported by human rights organizations as abusing Haitians, forcing them into labor camps, and hiring children to work. However, the government generally limits forced deportations after international human rights organizations and the U.S. pressure them and publicize their policies.

Haitians are minimally mobilized politically. There are three Haitian groups that represent their interests. In the spring of 2003, one of them organized a protest of about 2,000 people against the denial of citizenship to children of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic. In general, though, mobilization by international human rights groups is usually responsible for lessening Haitian discrimination. Due to their precarious political situation and low economic status, it is unlikely that they will mobilize in greater numbers in the future. In fact, future abuses and social discrimination against Haitians seem likely. Haitians are likely to continue to be deported and utilized as seasonal laborers. While formal government policy may change due to international pressure, current social practice implies that future treatment of Haitian blacks is unlikely to improve.

Analytic Summary

Sixteen percent of the Dominican Republic is of European descent, eleven percent is of African descent and the remainder of the population is a mix of both European and African descent. Though there is a preference in Dominican society for lighter colored skin and European racial features, "Blackness" itself does not condemn a person to a lower status. Upward mobility is possible for darker skinned Dominicans who acquire education or wealth. While Dominicans and Dominican culture are seen as European, Haitians and their culture are perceived as being African (RACE = 3). Both groups are Roman Catholics, but most Haitians practice a syncretistic Catholic-voodoo faith, which Dominicans look down upon.

All forms of Haitian culture, such as its holidays, voodoo practices and Creole language, are socially discriminated against. Dominicans typically claim that there is a distinct Haitian "appearance," which usually consists of darker skin and shabby clothing. There is a direct relationship between levels of discrimination in Dominican society and how Haitian-like a person is—determined by such factors as darkness of skin, level of education, knowledge of Creole, the type of accent one has when speaking Spanish, Creole names, and clothing (ETHDIFXX = 4).

Haitian immigration to the Dominican Republic dates from the late 19th century when the U.S. boosted sugar production on the island (TRADITN = 5). Dominicans tend to resent Haitians based on racism against "African" racial traits, the Haitian occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1822 to 1844, and historic abuses (which are often exaggerated or made-up) by Haitians against the European-descended Dominican population. Anti-Haitianism reached its peak in 1937, when approximately 25,000 Haitians were murdered by the Dominican military at the direction of the Dominican dictator Trujillo. By 1980, estimates suggested that more than 200,000 Haitians were residing permanently or semi-permanently in the country. Due to increased conflict in Haiti, and poor economic opportunity in Haiti, estimates are currently closer to 1,000,000.

Today there is widespread informal discrimination against Haitians and this has been cited in various human rights reports and news articles. In terms of formal governmental policy, Black Haitians face political discrimination primarily in the arena of citizenship (POLDIS00 = 4). Additionally, a number of social and law enforcement practices discriminate against Haitians: the military often uses unrestrained force when dealing with Haitian protesters, many Haitians have been found dead along the border, and thousands of Haitians are illegally deported every year, usually being unable to tell their families. Deportation is often based on appearance, which has lead to several darker Dominicans being deported as well. Informal policies make it extremely difficult for Haitians to acquire legal status, which would entitle Haitians to more public services.

Haitians are the poorest of society, earning 60% less than average Dominicans (ECDIS03 = 4). They often do not receive adequate nutrition or health care due to their illegal status and fear of deportation (DMSICK01-03 = 3). Most Haitians work in the lowest positions on the sugar plantations or construction sites, where they do the jobs no Dominican would ever consider. Many Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are rounded up and forced—often at gunpoint—to work on the sugar plantations for less than $4 a day, if they get paid at all.

Black Haitians are represented by three organizations, all of which rely on conventional political activities to advance Black Haitian interests (GOJPA01-03 = 2). There are no reports of violent activities being undertaken by the organizations (REB01-03 = 0). One organization did stage a protest march in 2003 (PROT01-02 = 1, PROT03 = 3).

After much international pressure, Haitians are now permitted to receive an education because the government stopped requiring birth certificates for attending the public schools—birth certificates are extremely difficult to obtain for children born on Dominican soil to Haitian parents. However, poverty usually condemns Haitian children to work instead of attend school, and this leads to high levels of illiteracy. Also after an international campaign and a little internal pressure from Haitians, the Dominican government started a documentation process for thousands of Haitians in April 2002. However, the extent to which these policies will continue to be carried out, and the extent to which they will have a positive impact on the treatment of Haitians, remains to be seen. As of 2003, the status of most Haitians remains unchanged and widespread social discrimination still keeps Haitians at the bottom of Dominican society.


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