Caribbean Community Fears Spread of Racist Immigration Policy

A Caribbean bloc committee pointed to Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa as examples of the violence and danger of xenophobia.

Sentilia Igsema, born in 1930 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, with four generations of her family outside their home in the eastern Seibo province.
Sentilia Igsema, born in 1930 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, with four generations of her family outside their home in the eastern Seibo province. | Photo: Reuters

The Caribbean Community’s committee said Monday the regional bloc should urge the Dominican Republic to put an end to its policies spurring the mass deportation of Haitians, in a move to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the region and avoid similar immigration policy spreading to other Caribbean nations. Caricom's Regional Cultural Committee condemned the “gross denial” of the basic human rights of Haitian-Dominicans taking place in the Dominican Republic, saying the organization “views with abhorrence” the forced expulsion of Haitian descendants, forced into a position of statelessness by racist policy, and recent reports of lynchings of Haitian-Dominicans.

The committee urged Caricom to pressure the Dominican Republic, and all Caribbean nations, to immediately halt all “overtly racist policies disguised as state foreign policy,” such as the immigration policy in Dominican Republic putting tens of thousands of Haitian descendants in a precarious situation on the brink of deportation.

Haitian migrants caught in the Bahamas
Haitian migrants caught in the Bahamas

“The lessons of history as seen in circumstances such as Nazi Germany, South Africa under Apartheid Law and Legal segregation in the Southern states of the U.S., demonstrate clearly the immediate danger of such state endorsed violence against members of our Caribbean family,” the Regional Cultural Committee said in a statement released Monday.

The recommendation also called for national debates on humanitarian, immigration, and citizenship issues to engage Caribbean diaspora communities.

The call for increased pressure on the Dominican Republic to rethink its regularization plan, which has forced massive out-migration of Haitian descendants, comes as an Organization of American States delegation visits Haiti to assess the human rights and migration situation after wrapping up activities in the Dominican Republic.

Tens of thousands of Haitian-Dominicans face mass deportation after a recently imposed government deadline for some half a million stateless Haitians, stripped of citizenship retroactively in a 2013 court decision, to register with authorities.

With few permits granted, the regularization plan was essentially a mass deportation order for Haitians and many Dominicans of Haitian descent, flaring deep and racist tensions between the neighboring Caribbean nations.

Dominican authorities insist that the more than 40,000 Haitians who have already left the country have done so voluntarily. ​

Since as far back as the late 1800s, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have crossed the border fleeing violence and poverty to seek a better life in the Dominican Republic. As close neighbors on the shared island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic and Haiti share a similar history of colonization, occupation, and U.S. domination – a history that is also common to the rest of the Caribbean.

“The Regional Cultural Committee wishes to remind the region that our nations were all formed from the same history of colonialism, enslavement and indentureship; and as such have a common past and a common future,” said the committee's statement. “The region can only progress collectively through mutual respect, tolerance and understanding.” While Haiti is a member of Caricom, the Dominican Republic's request to join the bloc remains pending. ​

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