19 November 2021
There has been a sharp uptick in anti-migrant policies and practices in the Dominican Republic in recent months, which have been fuelled in part by COVID-related restrictions and growing public backlash aimed at Haitians.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a long history of political and racial tensions, often related to migration pressures. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), for example, noted during a review of the Dominican Republic the UN’s longstanding “concern about the racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance that particularly affect dark-skinned persons of African descent from the Dominican Republic or Haiti as well as the Haitian irregular migrant population.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing humanitarian and social strife in Haiti have severely exacerbated these tensions in the Dominican Republic. Thus, while countries across the Caribbean and Latin America moved to stop deportations after the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the Dominican Republic did not. During the first half of March 2020, 2,059 Haitian nationals were detained and 1,703 deported. Recently, these deportations have appeared to increase. In October 2021, authorities deported 4,025 Haitians following raids led by police in Santa Cruz de Mao.
In one notable recent case, on 11 November 2021, El Nacional reported that several pregnant Haitian women had been detained in hospitals across the capital and subsequently deported. A group of 45 women, including 28 who were pregnant, were deported on 11 November to Haiti through the border between Comendador in the Dominican Republic and Belladere in Haiti. The Mesa Nacional para Migraciones y Refugiados en República Dominicana, a network of local civil society organisations, denounced the move as “a practice of racial discrimination, xenophobia” and intolerance. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Felipe Gonzalez, also denounced the move, tweeting: “Muy preocupante información sobre migrantes haitianas embarazadas detenidas en hospitales de República Dominicana y luego deportadas. Los Estados deben garantizar acceso a la salud y derechos sexuales y reproductivos de todas las personas migrantes.”
The hospital deportations occurred just as reports were emerging that the Dominican Republic was planning to limit access to public hospitals for undocumented migrants and would review the visa status of students from Haiti. The country’s Interior Minister justified the proposals arguing that the situation in Haiti “puts additional pressure on our health budget.”
In February 2021, the president of the Dominican Republic announced plans to build a fence along its 380 kilometer border with Haiti to “put an end to the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug trafficking and movement of stolen vehicles.” By May 2021, 23 kilometers of the four meter-high wall had been constructed. The COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the border with Haiti also had severe economic consequences for the country and local communities (see 8 December 2020 Dominican Republic update on this platform).
According to data published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 162 refugees and 625 asylum seekers in the country in 2020 and 162 refugees and 642 asylum seekers registered by mid-2021. UNHCR data also suggests that there has been a large increase in the number of Venezuelans present in the country. In 2019, there were 33,816 Venezuelans displaced abroad living in the Dominican Republic and in 2020, there were 114,050. In July 2021, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported that the first group of 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the country were given visas, allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalisation Plan. The plan was created by the Dominican government with support of the IOM and aims to regularise the Venezuelan population. The first phase of the plan began in April 2021 and since then, 43,000 Venezuelan nationals have registered to extend their stay and on 1 July 2021, 21 Venezuelan nationals received their work visa.
While the Dominican Republic has begun a national vaccination campaign against COVID-19, the country’s president, Luis Abindaer said that vaccine shots would not be given to anyone without residency papers. In addition, Response for Venezuelans reported in February 2021 that the country’s vaccination plan is not including refugees and migrants at this stage.
- UN Special Rapporteur Migration Felipe Gonzalez M, “Twitter Post: 13 November 2021,” 13 November 2021, https://twitter.com/UNSR_Migration/status/1459544353018310664
- Reuters, “Dominican Republic To Limit Immigrants’ Hospital Access Amid Tensions with Haiti,” 4 November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/dominican-republic-limit-immigrants-hospital-access-amid-tensions-with-haiti-2021-11-04/
- Dominican Today, “Dominican Republic-Haiti Border Fence Continues,” 12 May 2021, https://dominicantoday.com/dr/uncategorized/2021/05/12/dominican-republic-haiti-border-fence-continues/
- BBC, “Dominican Republic Announces Plans for Haiti Border Fence,” 28 February 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-56227999
- IOM, “Dominican Republic and IOM Help Clear Hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan Migrants,” 13 July 2021, https://www.iom.int/news/dominican-republic-and-iom-help-clear-hurdles-100000-venezuelan-migrants
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “Concluding Observations on the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Periodic Reports of the Dominican Republic, adopted by the Committee at its Eighty-Second Session (11 February - 1 March 2012), CERD/C/DOM//CO/13-14, 19 April 2013, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CERD%2fC%2fDOM%2fCO%2f13-14&Lang=en
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder,” accessed on 9 November 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=h27VBE
- Government of the Dominican Republic, “Migration Detains 2,595 Haitians and Deports 1,703,” 4 August 2020, https://migracion.gob.do/en/migration-detains-2595-haitians-and-deport-703-thousand/
- R. Santana, “Migración Repatrió a 4,025 Haitianos en el mes de Octubre,” Listin Diario, 3 November 2021, https://listindiario.com/la-republica/2021/11/03/695187/migracion-repatrio-a-4025-haitianos-en-el-mes-de-octubre
- Response for Venezuelans, “Situation Report: February 2021 - Caribbean,” 8 March 2021, https://www.r4v.info/sites/default/files/2021-06/02%20Feb%20Caribbean%20R4V%20Situation%20Report.pdf
- A. Moloney & N. Bhalla, “Analysis: Invisible Migrants Risk Being Last in Line for COVID-19 Vaccination,” Reuters, 21 January 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-migrants-trfn-idUSKBN29Q2A9
- El Nacional, “Detienen a Haitianas Embarazadas en un Hospital Dominicano y Las Deportan,” 11 November 2021, https://elnacional.com.do/detienen-a-haitianas-embarazadas-en-un-hospital-dominicano-y-las-deportan/
- A Pregnant Haitian National (El Nacional, "Detienen a haitianas embarazadas en un hospital dominicano y las deportan," 11 November 2021, https://elnacional.com.do/detienen-a-haitianas-embarazadas-en-un-hospital-dominicano-y-las-deportan/)
08 December 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.
- Ministry of the Presidency, “Listado de Medidas RD vs COVID-19,” 26 April 2020, https://coronavirusrd.gob.do/2020/04/26/listado-de-medidas-rd-vs-covid-19/
- BBC News, “Coronavirus: República Dominicana Confirma su Primer Caso de COVID-19,” 1 March 2020, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-51699648
- OPS, “República Dominicana Busca Contener Nuevo Coronavirus en Principal Foco de Infeccion,” 1 June 2020, https://www.paho.org/dor/index.php?option=com_joomlabook&view=topic&id=530
- IOM, “IOM Aids COVID-Impacted Communities on Haiti-Dominican Border and Worldwide,” 10 November 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/dominican-republic/iom-aids-covid-impacted-communities-haiti-dominican-border-and-worldwide
- Response for Venezuelans, “Carribean Situation Report June 2020,” 12 August 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/dominican-republic/caribbean-situation-report-june-2020-0
- Response for Venezuelans, “Refugee and Migrant Response Plan 2020,” 31 August 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/platform/location/7496
- WorldoMeter, “COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC,” accessed on 7 December 2020, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
- Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on the Sixth Periodic Report of the Dominican Republic,” CCPR/C/DOM/CO/6, 27 November 2017, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2fDOM%2fCO%2f6&Lang=en
- CDN, “Se Registra Motín en Cárcel de La Romana por Reo con Síntomas Coronavirus,” 6 May 2020, https://cdn.com.do/destacados/se-registra-motin-en-carcel-de-la-romana-por-reo-con-sintomas-coronavirus/
- Prison Insider, “La Fièvre des Prisons: Amériques: République Dominicaine,” accessed on 7 December 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/ameriques-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons
B. Attitudes and Perceptions
LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION
LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION
MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS
PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS
International Treaties Ratified
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Individual Complaints Procedures
Relevant Recommendations Issued by Treaty Bodies
§1. The Committee is concerned that the inefficient functioning of the National Refugee Commission (CONARE) is greatly affecting the rights of asylum-seeking children and their families, the overwhelming majority of whom are of Haitian nationality. The Committee is also concerned that the inadequate access to identity documents for child refugees and asylum seekers and/or their relatives puts them at risk of detention and deportation and impedes their access to health care and education.
2. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(b) Ensure that the National Refugee Commission undertakes child refugee status determination (RSD) through a fair and efficient asylum procedure, in accordance with international standards and in cooperation with UNHCR;
(c) Ensure the speedy and cost-free processing of temporary identity documents for child refugees and asylum-seekers and their relatives, including documentation certifying legal residency for those who were recognized under the UNHCR mandate.2015
§20. The Committee remains concerned at the practice of deporting foreigners in conditions that are incompatible with the provisions of the Covenant. The Committee also regrets the detention for unspecified periods of persons who are going to be deported (arts. 9 and 10).
The State party should provide all persons subject to a deportation process with the guarantees established by the Covenant, abolish the detention for an unspecified time period of persons who are going to be deported and provide detained persons with effective remedies.2012
§13. The Committee is concerned at information received according to which migrants of Haitian origin, whether documented or undocumented, are allegedly detained and subject to collective deportations (“repatriations”) to Haiti without any guarantee of due process (arts. 5 (a) and 6).
Taking into account its general recommendation 30 (2004) on non-citizens, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that laws concerning deportation or other forms of removal of non-citizens from the jurisdiction of the State party do not discriminate in purpose or effect among non-citizens on the basis of race, colour or ethnic or national origin;
(b) Ensure that non-citizens are not subject to collective expulsion, in particular in situations where there are insufficient guarantees that the personal circumstances of each of the persons concerned have been taken into account;
(c) Avoid the expulsion of non-citizens, especially of long-term residents, that would result in disproportionate interference with the right to family life;
(d) Ensure that non-citizens have equal access to effective remedies, including the right to challenge expulsion orders, and are allowed to pursue such remedies effectively. The Committee further recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to accelerate the approval of the provision of Migration Law No. 285-04 setting guidelines on the principle of due process in deportation or expulsion procedures.
The Committee invites the State party to adopt humane and internationally accepted measures in dealing with undocumented migrants.2008