Dominican Republic Urged To Stop Deporting People To Haiti As People Flee Surge In Gang Violence

(AP) — Human rights activists are calling on the Dominican Republic’s government for a temporary reprieve in deportations as neighbouring Haiti’s crisis spirals and people attempt to flee over the closed border from a surge in deadly gang violence.

Small trucks with customised cages are ferrying dozens of Haitians every day from a detention centre in San Cristóbal to the border on the island of Hispaniola as the gang attacks paralyse parts of Haiti’s capital.

“If the government could postpone or diminish the push for deportations, it would be an achievement…an important contribution to the Haitian population,” said William Charpentier, coordinator for the Dominican-based National Coalition for Migrations and Refugees.

Charpentier said his organisation has received complaints about Dominican authorities allegedly bursting into homes to arrest people believed to be Haitians, breaking belongings and extorting them at times.

The United Nations also has called on the Dominican Republic and other countries to halt deportations, noting that Haiti is extremely unsafe.

Roberto Álvarez, the Dominican Republic’s foreign minister, told reporters that the deportations are a result of a national security policy and that there is no choice but to continue them.

“We do it respecting international conventions and human rights treaties. We are not perfect. From time to time, situations occur. We try to correct them immediately,” he responded when asked about allegations of abuse.

More than 23,900 people have been deported so far this year, according to the Dominican government. More than 4,500 have been deported this month.

Scores of people have been killed since the attacks began on February 29 across Port-au-Prince, with gangs targeting police stations, the main international airport that remains closed and Haiti’s two biggest prisons, with more than 4,000 inmates released.