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08 December 2020 – Dominican Republic

IOM, “IOM Aids COVID-Impacted Communities on Haiti-Dominican Border and Worldwide,” 10 November 2020,
IOM, “IOM Aids COVID-Impacted Communities on Haiti-Dominican Border and Worldwide,” 10 November 2020,

On 1 March 2020, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Dominican Republic. Between 15 and 19 March, the government adopted a series of emergency measures, including halting flights from Europe, China, South Korea, and Iran; suspending ferry arrivals; and closing border crossings with Haiti. As of December 2020, the country had registered 149,138 COVID-19 cases and 2,346 deaths.

On 10 November, the IOM reported that it was distributing more than 12,000 food kits to migrant and Dominican families affected by the economic consequences of closing the border with Haiti. The closure of four border crossings in particular have had major impacts on local communities and the country as a whole. The Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Development reports that some 90 percent of trade with Haiti flows through those posts, which account for nearly 230,000 entries per year.

The IOM reports that it is working with several civil society organisations in the country to distribute food in border provinces. According to the Casa de Luz Foundation, “people do not have access to food in sufficient quantities, and thanks to the aid that IOM has been providing these days, many people have received food at home. … Many of these families depended on the informal market trade. Now the market activities are almost nil, so many have had to migrate to work for private households in Santo Domingo.”

According to UNHCR, there are 30,333 Venezuelans displaced abroad in the Dominican Republic along with 603 asylum seekers and 162 refugees. According to Response for Venezuelans, its partners assisted 37 Venezuelans with COVID-19, accompanying them to hospitals and purchasing their medicines. Response for Venezuelans also reported that 33 cases of legal assistance for persons who were evicted and lost their jobs without justification were managed remotely by the organisation.

In its concluding observations in 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern regarding reports of arbitrary and indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees as well as at the lack of procedural safeguards in the country. In addition, the committee observed that a high number of Haitian nationals are deported and that pushbacks at the border are carried out in the absence of procedural safeguards and by inadequately trained immigration and border personnel. The committee recommended that the country take steps to “avoid the arbitrary and indefinite detention of migrants, asylum seekers and refugee claimants, ensure that they have access to a lawyer and information on their rights, including at the border, and provide for alternatives to detention for asylum seekers and refugee claimants, ensuring that detention is used only a last resort.”

The country’s prisons have seen large outbreaks of COVID-19 since April; as of 1 July 2020, there were 917 cases in the country’s prisons, of which 346 were active at that time. During the pandemic, two riots took place, one in April at the Victoria prison in Santo Domingo and another in May at the Romana prison, leaving five prisoners and a police officer injured. Prisoners were requesting COVID-19 testing after other prisoners tested positive at the facilities and after four prisoners died at the Victoria prison. The Victoria prison has 9,000 prisoners for 1,500 places.

The GDP has been unable to obtain details on COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration custody.