3 October 2006
His Excellency Doctor Leonel Fernández
Constitutional President of the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo, D. N.
Dear Mr President,
The undersigned British non-governmental organisations wish to express in public our concern at the situation currently faced by Haitians and Dominico-Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
We hope that you share our concerns. It seems that your government has started to take steps to reduce discrimination against these communities, as indicated by the announcement of your foreign minister, Dr. Carlos Morales Troncoso, at a recent General Assembly meeting of the Organisation of American States in June 2006 that the DR will comply with the ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of 8 September 2005 on the Yean and Bosico vs Dominican Republic case. We presume this announcement means that the Dominican government will now implement the reparations ordered by the Inter-American Court, including the dissemination of the ruling, a public apology, compensation for the victims, the provision of human rights training for state officials, the granting of access to primary education to all children and the reform of the birth registration process, amongst others. It is clear that such reforms will reduce institutional discrimination, not only against Dominicans of Haitian descent but also against poor and marginalised Dominicans in general. Therefore we very much welcome your government's stated compliance with the Court's ruling.
However we would like to highlight our concern about some continuing human rights violations, as mentioned below.
The mass and arbitrary deportation of those thought to be illegal immigrants continues to underpin Dominican migration policy, in spite of assurances made by yourself in July 2005 that illegal Haitian migrants would be repatriated `using certain criteria, and in accordance with the law and with respect for international norms' and your assertion at that time that you were opposed to mass deportations.
We do not question the sovereign right of the Dominican government to deport illegal migrants and recognise that migration into the DR must be controlled. But we do question the manner in which deportations are carried out.
From January to June 2006, the Dominican Department of Migration (Direccion General de Migracion) with the assistance of the Dominican Army, repatriated 16,115 undocumented Haitians. The majority of these people were deported by means which contravened international norms and also the minimum standards drawn up between the Dominican and Haitian authorities in 1999 (and confirmed in 2002), according to reports we have received from a number of non-governmental sources. Deportees' testimonies indicate a consistent pattern: in many cases, migration officials violently broke into houses and aimed guns at the occupants, then tied them up and threw them onto buses without giving them any chance to explain themselves or produce identity documents or inform their families or collect their belongings. Many deportees report that prior to repatriation, they were locked up in detention centres where they were frequently assaulted by officials and denied any food or water.
Violence perpetrated by border officials
We regret the fact that Dominican soldiers and border officials still appear to be perpetrating violent and illegal acts against Haitian traders and migrants in the border region. On 19 July 2006, for example, we received media reports of a Haitian female market seller having been savagely beaten by a Dominican soldier at the binational market in Dajabón because she refused to give the soldier a bag of rice she was taking to market. Also in July we received reports that Dominican soldiers had killed two Haitians apparently attempting to enter Dominican territory. We would like assurances that the soldiers accused of perpetrating these acts have been suspended from service and that these alleged acts of violence are being fully investigated.
Illegal people trafficking
In spite of legislation approved in the Dominican Republic in August 2003 to tackle illegal people trafficking into Dominican territory, the indications are that such trafficking is continuing and indeed increasing. As you know, such trafficking involves abuse and exploitation of poor Haitians on a grand scale and often ends in tragedy as was the case in January 2006 when 25 Haitians suffocated to death in the back of an airless and overcrowded truck. It also encourages corruption amongst state officials. We therefore appeal to you to engage with the new Haitian administration over how to tackle people trafficking as a matter of urgency. Above all, we believe that greater efforts should be made to facilitate legal migration into the DR by improving the procedure and reducing the cost of obtaining Dominican visas.
We continue to be concerned by the reported incidence of mob attacks against individuals presumed to be Haitian or of Haitian descent, often in retaliation for crimes allegedly perpetrated by these individuals. It would appear that there is a growing tendency for individuals to take the law into their own hands instead of pursuing their grievances through the police, migration or judicial authorities. Since early 2006, several further incidents of this nature have come to light, including the following:
• On 8 March 2006, two Haitians alleged to have brutally murdered a local mayor in Yabonico were doused with petrol and set on fire by relatives and neighbours of the murdered mayor.
• On 30 January, mobs in northern DR burned at least two homes of Haitian migrants and beat at least six Haitians with staves, in retaliation for an alleged attempted rape by two Haitians.
• On 22 January, seven people were wounded and 27 houses – some belonging to Haitian families – were torched in a poor neighbourhood in Guerra, in retaliation for the death of a Dominican air force sergeant.
In view of the above, we urge the Dominican government to:
• Formulate and implement just migration policies based on both the Dominican Republic's economic necessities and on respect for migrants' human rights.
• Ensure that all deportations are carried out in full conformity with Dominican laws and international human rights standards and with the minimum standards agreed with the Haitian authorities in 1999 and 2002.
• Agree a plan of action to combat illegal trafficking, in cooperation with the Haitian government and civil society organisations on both sides of the border, and improve procedures for legal entry into the DR.
• Investigate fully cases where popular opinion accuses Haitians or Dominico-Haitians of the murder of a Dominican citizen; ensure that those responsible for the crime are brought to justice, in full respect of the law and human rights norms; and make a public statement to discourage all concerned from taking justice into their own hands.
• Ensure that the police take prompt action to restore law and order in situations when one section of the population is accused of a crime and another group appears to intend to take violent action in revenge.
• Ensure that the police and judiciary carry out full investigations of the violent crimes enumerated in this letter, and bring those responsible to justice, in full respect of laws and human rights standards.
• Reprimand public officials that make statements inciting hatred or xenophobia regarding the Haitian and Dominico-Haitian population, and suspend state officials accused of crimes while these are investigated.
• Guarantee and protect the right of civil society organisations to carry out work to defend the human rights of all communities in the Dominican Republic.
• Ensure respect of the constitutional provision regarding the right of all persons born in the Dominican Republic to Dominican citizenship; accordingly, we call on the Dominican government to fully implement the judgement in Yean and Bosico vs. Dominican Republic (Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 8 September 2005) and to ensure that Dominican migration legislation is in conformity with this judgement.
• Introduce simpler and more transparent procedures for Dominicans and Dominico-Haitians to secure identity papers and for Haitian immigrants to secure the necessary employment and residency papers so that Dominicans, Dominico-Haitians and Haitian immigrants can access public services such as schooling.
• Ensure that clear, transparent mechanisms exist for migrants resident in the Dominican Republic for a number of years, in particular those recruited to work for companies based in the Dominican Republic, to apply for residence.
Finally we appeal to the Dominican authorities to collaborate closely with the new Haitian administration over the elaboration of migration policies and border controls that will prevent tragedy, eliminate human rights abuse and corruption, regulate migration flows and harmonise relations between the inhabitants of both countries to the mutual benefit of all concerned. Accordingly, we welcome the announcement of 8 August that the Binational Mixed Commission is being revived and that a meeting is planned in the near future between yourself and President Preval.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to receiving a response.
Dr Daleep Mukarji
On behalf of:
Action Aid International Haiti-RD
Haiti Support Group
Minority Rights Group International
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