HAVANA (AP) — The head of the U.N. human rights agency called on the Dominican Republic on Thursday to halt increasing deportations of Haitian migrants at a time of turmoil in their country.
“Unrelenting armed violence and systematic human rights violations in Haiti currently do not allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement.
He extended this call to other nations in the region. The United States also continued to crack down on immigration from Haiti, despite the Biden administration expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Haiti.
Gang warfare and political unrest have fueled an exodus from Haiti, with migrants seeking refuge across the region.
In the Dominican Republic – which shares a 240-mile (390km) border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola – this has prompted migrant and border crackdowns that the government says will “guarantee border security”.
Dominican authorities say they deported 43,900 migrants, mostly Haitians, between July and October. Deportation numbers also rose by around 50% between September and October.
Advocacy groups say mass deportations of Haitians from the Dominican Republic have increased since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, which plunged an already crisis-torn nation into chaos.
Such deportations have increased in recent months as Haiti’s most powerful gang has blocked fuel supplies, creating widespread hardship. That ban was lifted just this week.
Turk also urged the Caribbean nation to take steps to prevent xenophobia and discrimination against Haitians.
But William Charpantier Blanco, head of the National Commission for Migrants and Refugees in the capital of Santo Domingo, said the Dominican government’s “persecution of migrants” has only deepened such feelings.
While the activist said he understands the security concerns of the Dominican Republic, “it’s another thing that follows a number of migrants crossing the border looking for work, trying to protect their lives. They are honest people who cross into the Dominican Republic to survive. “
Turk’s call echoed a statement last week by a sister agency, the UN refugee agency, that urged other nations to stop deporting Haitians.
“Attacks by armed gangs and the recent cholera outbreak have exacerbated an already dramatic humanitarian situation in Haiti, which is characterized by acute food insecurity, fuel shortages and limited health care and sanitation,” the agency said. “Millions of children cannot go to school, are malnourished and live in fear.”