The town of Belladère, struggling with repatriations, deportations and massive pushbacks from the Dominican Republic
Through official and unofficial points in the municipality of Belladère, endless repatriations, deportations and pushbacks are increasing across the Haitian-Dominican borders in deplorable conditions. What’s worse, the conditions of deportation turn out to be even more scandalous, painful than in past months and years and outside of any protocol of understanding established between the two countries. Recently, the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR, 2022) alerted officials of the National Council for Children and Adolescence (CONANI) to the cases of deportations of children from the Dominican Republic. No measures have been taken to improve the situation. In addition, binational coordination meetings have been held to remedy this, but always in vain. It seems that the deportation operations reveal political decisions of the highest Dominican authorities.
Furthermore, the commune of Belladère currently constitutes one of the most accessible official points for deportations and repatriations because in the other official points, minute tensions are developing between the Dominican authorities and the population. This situation is the same at the border points of Ouanaminte and Anse-A-Pitres. As a result, the majority of deportations and repatriations take place in the municipality of Belladère which welcomes thousands of migrants/children and adults per day (ONM, October 2022). Without taking into account the time, the Dominican authorities are turning over migrants who, moreover, have spent more than 9 days in prison on their territory in inhumane conditions, without any distinction, accompanied or unaccompanied children, girls, pregnant women, or with infants.
The “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation, which welcomes unaccompanied children and provides them with humanitarian assistance, receives them at all hours, even between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. through the Institute of Social Welfare and Research. And this massively, more than ten children deported per day and/or per night. The most recent date is October 22, 2022, the “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation welcomed more than five (5) children at 9 p.m. without counting those it receives in the middle of the day. Indeed, from July 20 to October 31, 2022, 324 children including 103 girls and 221 boys aged 10 to 17 arrived unaccompanied at the Belladère-Elias Piñas border point. In addition to the intervention of the IBESR, these children are welcomed by the “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation for psycho-social and humanitarian care. Then, to be reunited with their family or authorized guardian.
During these last months of 2022, the situation is very complex for the “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation which receives at the transit center itself children who are not of Haitian nationality and who are expatriated among the repatriated Haitian children. Here is a testimony from a Dominican expatriate whose name Zanmi Timoun does not reveal.
“I am 17 years old, my mother is Dominican and my father is Colombian and I was born in the Dominican Republic in “Losminas”. It is outrageous the way people are treated in prisons before deporting them to Haitian soil. I spent more than 3 days in prison without eating because the crumbs we were given were not edible and people slept on the floor filled with urine, nauseating odors were released, I could not swallow anything or even sleep. I sat on a chair and prayed that my mom would come and get me because I didn’t want to put my feet on Haitian soil that I don’t know. Unfortunately, the next day I was among many others on the Haitian border and greeted by people who were present and of whom I had no idea who they could be.
The “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation often receives similar cases, just because the Dominican authorities assume that the child belongs to a Haitian, they are expatriates. Very often, they do not arrive at the transit center because their parents came to pick them up at the border with legal documents and follow-up is done with CONANI. These cases clearly demonstrate that the hunting of Haitians on Dominican territory spares no one, even those who have a valid visa and passport, tourists. Haitian children testify about their ordeal, sometimes raped by smugglers and/or sexually exploited by Dominicans with whom they work in the fields (peppers, tomatoes, etc.). Others work as servants in homes. This is the case of a 13-year-old girl who was repatriated and reunified by IBESR and Zanmi Timoun during the month of October 2022. For the boys, they also work in the fields but sometimes, instead of pay them, the Dominicans call immigration for the repatriates in order not to respect their pledge. Haitian children in the Dominican Republic are hunted by the authorities, wherever they are, they are wanted to be repatriated. A 16-year-old boy reunited in the northern department explains how they took him and mistreated him to the point of putting him in prison for 15 days.
“On September 12, 2022, I was arrested by the “guard”, I was living in Santiago with my girlfriend, who, incidentally, is expecting a child from me. I worked on a chili plantation for 1,000.00 pesos. The “guard” landed in the field and escorted more than a hundred Haitians, children and adults who worked there and took us to a prison where all the reception conditions did not meet them. In the twisted hole, we sleep on the ground, without a sleeping bag, we eat very late and sometimes we give the “guard” money to buy us something to eat. No effort wasted because they never returned and took the money. Furthermore, they confiscated our phone, and took everything they found on us, even our money. Add to that, they make racist remarks “Haitiano, el diablo” and others to tell us to stay in our country. When we tell them our area of origin, they send us to the other end so that we cannot return to Dominican soil, I am living proof of that. I am from Capois but they took me to the Belladère border. Everything lost, if there weren’t all these people to take me to this center, God only knows where I would be…”.
The situation is very critical in the commune of Belladère, in particular in the Zanmi Timoun transit center which welcomes around 100 unaccompanied children every month and at least 5 children per day. However, the last two weeks of October, there are 12, 14 per day, girls and boys. Faced with this chaotic situation, the “Zanmi Timoun” Foundation wants total care to be provided to these children. In addition, she is concerned about the future of these children in Haiti, especially those who are girl mothers, boy fathers, arrived in a country torn by political conflicts and the violence of armed groups.
Done in Port-au-Prince, November 4, 2022
Joseph Richard FORTUNÉ
Tel: 509 3187 73 63 / 509 3387 06 88