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Dominican Republic Criticized Over Treatment of Haitians


Human rights group Amnesty International has criticized the Dominican Republic for its treatment of Haitian migrant workers. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports the group claims that many Haitians are subject to summary deportation.

Amnesty International, in a written report, accuses the Dominican government of denying legal rights to Haitian immigrants and their children born in the country.

The group says more than a half million Haitians live in the neighboring country, where many have jobs in agriculture or construction fields. Amnesty says even though Haitian workers are needed to fill those jobs and some have spent decades in the country, they find it very difficult to obtain legal documentation as residents.

As a result, Amnesty researcher Gerardo Ducos says, some migrants face deportation when they cannot prove their legal residence.

Ducos says deportation procedures are often arbitrary, and he says some mass deportations have occurred, in which Haitian migrant workers had no opportunity to challenge the deportation orders.

The Dominican embassy in Washington and the Foreign Relations Ministry did not immediately respond to the claims. The government has defended its position on Haitian immigrants, saying many are in the country illegally.

The Caribbean nation also has been criticized for failing to grant citizenship and other legal rights to children born in Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. Several immigrant families have complained it is impossible to send their children to school because the Dominican government will not issue birth certificates for their children.

In a 2005 ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights criticized such restrictions and ordered the Dominican Republic to open the nation's schools to the children of Haitian immigrants. Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, however, has rejected the ruling.

It is not uncommon for migrants from Haiti and other nations to face difficulties once they leave their home country. In Miami, Haitian community leader Marlene Bastien says she sees some parallels between the treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and the United States.

"They shouldn't be fighting to access education, they shouldn't be fighting to access health care, they shouldn't be fighting to access employment," said Marlene Bastien. "And if they work, they should be able to take advantage of the fruits of their labor."

Bastien says she hopes the governments in Santo Domingo and elsewhere continue searching for ways to balance the need for migrant labor against the needs of security and immigration law.

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