Tag Archive | "Haiti"

Dominican Republic: Tens of Thousands Face Deportation Under New Law

The countries are neighbours on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola

The countries are neighbours on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola

Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent face an uncertain future in the Dominican Republic after the eligibility period for residence registration expired on 17th June.

In September 2013, in a controversial move, the Dominican constitutional court redefined the right to citizenship to exclude the children of migrant workers, even those who were born and raised in the country. The ruling affects all those of migrant worker descent who have been born since 1929.

In response to criticism from the international community, the government passed a further law in May 2014, providing a way for Dominicans of Haitian descent to “regularise” their status and in that way avoid being deported.

Some 288,500, or an estimated 55 % of those subject to the law, have applied for the regularisation. The interior minister confirmed that those who have not registered will be forcibly removed from the country.

Dominican foreign minister Andres Navarro announced last Monday that the applications will be processed in the next 45 days, after which the country will begin deportations. Perhaps cautious of international attention, Navarro assured that this does not mean “hunts for irregular migrants for deportation”.

Those affected by the legal changes were divided into two groups: those with Dominican birth certificates; and those born in the country but not in possession of a birth certificate. The first group was asked to get their birth certificates “validated” and to reapply for citizenship before February this year. The latter was told to apply for a residency permit as foreigners, a move criticised by multiple human rights groups and international organisations. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that the obligation of Dominicans to register as foreigners is against international human rights law. It also stated that children cannot inherit the migratory status of their parents.

A spokesperson for Amnesty International concurred: “When the vast majority of these people were born, the Dominican law at the time recognised them as citizens. Stripping them of this right, and then creating impossible administrative hurdles to stay in the country, is a violation of their human rights.”

In addition, multiple problems have been reported with the regularisation process. The applicants are required to provide official documents proving the registration of birth, which many simply do not have often due to discrimination against Haitians by government officials, and dysfunctional public services. Moreover, the process takes months, and is costly for the applicants. Offices are reportedly overcrowded, understaffed, and people have been poorly informed as to the needed documents and procedures. In addition, many oppose the new requirement. Consequently, the first deadline in February passed with merely some 7,000 requests while the extended deadline, 17th June drew to a close with thousands still arriving at the government offices.

In response to the expiration of the deadline, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing has urged the country to extend the registration time. “Too many of those concerned face serious difficulty in securing documents in the country, and thus need extra time and assistance to make their applications. We appeal to the authorities to continue to work with those subject to the General Migration Law and their employers beyond the Regularisation Plan deadline,” Swing asserted.

Similarly, a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, has communicated concerns: “We urge the government of the Dominican Republic to ensure that people whose citizenship was questioned by the decision of the Constitutional Court of 2013 will not be deported.” Moreover, Andrews expressed the UNHCR’s fear of the potential expulsion of up to 200,000 people to Haiti despite not having the Haitian citizenship.

Should the deportations go ahead, the future for the migrant workers and their children, many of whom have never been to Haiti and do not even speak Creole, looks grim. The Haitian president Michel Martelly has declared that the children of Haitian immigrants born in the Dominican Republic will not be admitted to the country. Lawyers have criticised the president’s decision as illegal, given that according to the constitution, the children of Haitians legally retain their nationality regardless of where they are born.

Early 20th century saw great migrations of Haitians to the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar cane industry. Migrants have also crossed the border in search of economic opportunities and to escape violence or political repression. The history of the two countries is tense and often bloody, such as in the case of the “corte” (cutting) during Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s regime in 1937, where 20,000 Haitians were massacred by the nation’s army.

Meanwhile, the situation remains very insecure for the Haitian-Dominicans. As Robin Guittard of Amnesty communicated: “The Dominican government keeps sending reassuring statements, as they know they are under international scrutiny, but has given no guarantee that people born in the country won’t be expelled. In reality, there is a lack of clear proceedings for deportation in the Dominican Republic, leaving a huge space for arbitrariness and further human rights violations.”

In this climate many Haitians are staying home in fear of being deported. Others, instead of waiting to be deported en masse, have chosen to leave on their own terms. While there are reports of the Dominican army starting summary deportations of anyone looking Haitian, as of yet, there have not been any mass expulsions, despite the immigration agency reportedly having school busses at the ready, and detention centres prepared along the border region.

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Haiti: President Announces New Cabinet

Haitian president Michel Martelly (photo: Wikipedia)

Haitian president Michel Martelly (photo: Wikipedia)

Haitian president Michel Martelly announced yesterday via Facebook the composition of the new cabinet, due to take office this afternoon.

It is hoped that the latest developments will stem Haiti’s on-going political crisis, which led to the dissolution of Parliament last week.

Martelly kept various members of the executive in their posts, such as the Health, Tourism, Education, Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Public Works ministers. He also named some of his allies in key posts, such as the Planning Ministry and the Public Safety Secretariat.

The announcement came two days after the appointment by Martelly of opposition politician Evans Paul as primer minister. The former Port-au-Prince mayor was sworn in on Friday night.

Paul and his cabinet will lack backing by Parliament.

Despite the announcements, protests against Martelly continued throughout the weekend.

The government and the opposition have been in a deadlock which has kept the country from holding legislative or municipal elections since 2011. Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned last month, amid an escalation of anti-government protests, in a bid to “permit a resolution to the crisis.”


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Haiti: Parliament Dissolved, Martelly To Rule By Decree

Haitian president Michel Martelly (photo: Wikipedia)

Haitian president Michel Martelly (photo: Wikipedia)

The Haitian Parliament was dissolved yesterday, after President Michel Martelly failed to reach an agreement with the opposition to extend parliamentary terms. With an inactive parliament, President Martelly will be left to rule by decree.

Parliament was unable to reach a quorum to debate Martelly’s proposed agreement, due to the absence of the Fanmi Lavalas party, led by former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, which had not been included in the negotiations.

The proposed agreement stated that elections had to be organised before the end of 2015 for two-thirds of the Senate and the full Chamber of Deputies, as well as for president, and extended the parliamentary terms until elections were carried out. The terms of all the deputies and a third of the senators expired on Monday at midnight.

Haiti’s radical opposition has called for the population to reject Martelly’s government through civil disobedience and to exercise “self-defence” against “the government’s aggression” and the “political disaster” brought about by Monday’s event.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (Minustah) released a statement signed by the head of the mission, Sandra Honoré, and the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, Spain, United States, France, and the European Union, as well as the special representative of the Organisation of American States (OAS), supporting Martelly.

The so-called ‘Core Group’ called for “the Executive and all the political actors to act with responsibility and restraint,” and expressed its support to the President to fulfill his constitutional duty and guarantee the regular functioning of institutions. It also urged “all stakeholders to continue negotiations with the objective of forming, as a matter of urgency, a consensus Government” and a new Electoral Tribunal in order to carry out elections this year.

The government and the opposition have been in a deadlock which has kept the country from holding legislative or municipal elections since 2011. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned last month, amid an escalation of anti-government protests, in a bid to “permit a resolution to the crisis.”

The country is scheduled to hold presidential elections at the end of the year.

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Haiti: Prime Minister Resigns as Anti-Government Protests Intensify

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti's prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti’s prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, resigned on the weekend amid an escalation of anti-government protests in the country.

Lamothe announced his resignation in the early hours of Sunday morning, saying he was leaving the post with a sense of “accomplishment”.

On Friday, a special commission had recommended that Lamothe step down as one of a series of steps to address the country’s political crisis. “If it will permit a resolution to the crisis, I present my resignation and that of my government,” said Lamothe in a televised address.

Long-running protests have intensified recently over a political deadlock that has delayed legislative and municipal elections for several years, as well as allegations of corruption. On Friday, an anti-government protest in the capital Port-au-Prince ended in violent clashes with police, leaving one person dead.

President Michel Martelly created the special advisory commission last month in an attempt to set out a road map to resolve the crisis. Aside from the departure of Lamothe, the commissions other recommendations included disbanding the electoral council, freeing “political prisoners”, and the resignation of the Supreme Court president.

Martelly is due to meet with party leaders today, and should nominate a new prime minister by Wednesday, according to the commission report.

The current legislative mandate expires on 12th January, and if elections have not been called by then, President Martelly could rule by decree, raising concerns among many of a return to autocratic rule. Protesters have been calling for both Lamothe and Martelly to resign.

Martelly, meanwhile, has blamed opposition parties for blocking proposed reforms to the electoral law that he says would pave the way for a vote.

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Brazil: 31 People Rescued from Slavery in São Paulo

Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Authorities have rescued 31 people found working in “slave-like conditions” in the centre of São Paulo. The 19 Bolivian and 12 Haitian nationals were discovered in two textile workshops after a tip off from the dressmakers’ union.

According to the Regional Superintendence of Work and Employment in São Paulo (SRTE-SP), the 12 Haitian and two Bolivian victims found in one of the workshops were forced to work up to 15 hours a day for two months in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. They slept on old mattresses or on the floor and were not given sufficient food supplies. Those who complained about not being paid were denied food rations. The SRTE-SP added that this is the first time that Haitians have been rescued from slavery in the city.

In the other workshop, in which a 15-year-old pregnant girl was among the 17 Bolivians rescued, food was stored with cleaning products or on the floor. Faulty and exposed wiring also created a fire hazard, according to the SRTE-SP press release. The workers received R$700 a month, less than the minimum wage in Brazil, and had their IDs confiscated to prevent them from leaving.

The workshops produced items used by Brazilian clothing brands, As Marias and Seike, which have been fined, according to authorities. A spokesperson for As Marias told local NGO Reporter Brasil that the company had outsourced production to a third party and was unaware of the workers’ conditions.

“Slavery is a crime and a national disgrace,” said SRTE-SP superintendent Luiz Antonio Medeiros. “In São Paulo we are introducing harsher punishments for companies that use slave labour in their chain of production.” Medeiros claimed that from now on, guilty companies will be entered onto a blacklists and have tax benefits removed. According to the Labour Ministry, there are currently 609 companies blacklisted for subjecting workers to slave-like conditions.

Those directly responsible for holding workers in slave conditions, meanwhile, could face up to eight years in prison.

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Latin America News Roundup: 3rd April 2014

President Michelle Bachelet declared the area that Tuesday's earthquake hit to be a 'catastrophe zone' (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

President Michelle Bachelet declared the area that Tuesday’s earthquake hit to be a ‘catastrophe zone’ (Photo: EFE/Ariel Marinkpvic/Télam/lz)

Chile: Strong Aftershocks follow Tuesday’s Earthquake: Chilean authorities are evaluating the impact of Tuesday’s earthquake, which killed six people and led to the preventative evacuation of more than a million as a precautionary measure against a possible tsunami. The earthquake, which measured 8.2 on the Richter scale, hit the very north of Chile, close to the cities of Arica and Iquique, on Tuesday night, causing flooding and fires, as well as structural damage to dozens of buildings. The initial quake has been followed by aftershocks, one of which measured 7.6 yesterday, its epicentre being in the Pacific some 200km from the coastal city of Iquique. President Michelle Bachelet visited the region yesterday, and said that water and power had been restored to most of the areas affected, although two small towns remain stranded as eight roads are still impassable after they suffered massive structural damage and rockslides as a result of the earthquake. Experts are warning that aftershocks may continue for some time.

Costa Rica: Campaigning Closes ahead of Presidential Run-Off: Polls and campaigning officially ended today ahead of Sunday’s second-round presidential election in Costa Rica, which will define who will rule the country until 2018. In 2nd February’s first round, none of the presidential candidates obtained the 40% needed to avoid a run off, which meant frontrunners Luis Guillermo Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), who obtained 30.8% of the votes, will face Johnny Araya Monge, of the incumbent Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), who obtained 29.6%. In an unusual twist, Johnny Araya pulled out of the race at the start of March, as it seemed Solís had an unsurmountable lead in the polls, but a few days later his party said he would continue running. In Costa Rica, where voting is obligatory, a candidate is unable to pull out of the second round of an election. However, polls indicate that Solís will win the election, and it is said that the social-democrat is already putting his cabinet together.

Haiti: Broad Restructuring of Cabinet Announced: Haitian prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, announced yesterday a restructuring of his cabinet, which will involve almost half of the ministers. Via Twitter, Lamothe announced that ten of the ministries would see a change in leadership, citing the restructuring as necessary to achieve political backing in the midst of negotiations about the delayed municipal and parliamentary elections which should take place before the end of the year. Among those involved in the reshuffle are the Economy, Interior, Foreign, Defence, and Education ministries.

Haiti is also celebrating having reached historic accords with the Dominican Republic in various areas, including immigration, work, environment, agriculture, and tourism sectors. This comes after the neighbouring countries’ ties hit an historic low last year, when the Dominican Republic controversially stripped citizenship from those born to undocumented immigrants, a ruling that affected Haitians inthe most part.

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Latin America News Roundup: 21st February 2014

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, in 1975.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, in 1975.

Haiti – Ex Dictator Could Face Human Rights Trial: An appeals court in Haiti has ruled that the former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier can face trial for alleged human rights abuses between 1971 and 1986. The court overruled the decision in 2012 by first instance judge Jean Carves that the time in which Duvalier could be prosecuted for human rights crimes had expired, and ordered an investigation to determine whether a new trial should be called. The verdict ruled that under international law, crimes against humanity are excluded from statute of limitations. Duvalier, nicknamed ‘Baby Doc’, also faces charges of corruption, theft and embezzlement; he has denied all charges brought against him. During Duvalier’s 15-year rule, thousands of Haitian civilians were murdered, tortured, or disappeared. He was forced into exile for 25 years after a popular revolt in 1986, but returned to Haiti in 2011.

Brazil Calls In Army To Beef Up World Cup Security: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced that the army will be called on “if necessary” to control street protests during the 2014 World Cup. “Brazil is ready to guarantee the safety of its citizens and visitors,” declared Rousseff as she unveiled a R$1.9bn (reais) security programme for the tournament. Civil, Federal, and Military Police forces will also coordinate security programmes in the 12 host cities. The announcement comes soon after the death of a Brazilian cameraman who was hit by a flare during violent protests in Rio de Janeiro, the latest in a series of demonstrations that began in July 2013.

Venezuela – Government Revokes Credentials for CNN Journalists: CNN International and CNN en Español confirmed today that the Venezuelan authorities had revoked the press credentials of seven journalists working in the country. The notification came hours after President Nicolas Maduro criticised the media channel for its coverage of recent protests. “They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela,” said Maduro yesterday evening. “Enough war propaganda! If you do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN!” The decision came during another day of protests in cities around the country by opposition group Voluntad Popular, led by Leopoldo López, who was arrested on Tuesday. Last night, prosecutors dropped charges of murder and terrorism against López, though he will remain in custody while other charges – including arson, inciting violence, and damage to public property – are investigated.

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Latin America News Roundup: 12th February 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Referendum on Bogotá Mayor Postponed: Colombia’s National Civil Registry announced yesterday that the recall referendum on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro has been postponed due to “lack of resources.” The referendum, which will decide on the mayor’s fate after he was dismissed by Colombia’s Inspector General, was scheduled to take place on 2nd March. However, the Civil Registry informed in a statement posted on their website, that “without the resources it is not possible to move forward in purchasing the necessary goods and services” to carry it out. The Civil Registry has requested COL$38bn (US$17.8m) from the Economy Ministry, and is still awaiting for the funds to be confirmed. There has been no confirmation as to when the referendum will be held.

Regularisation Plan for Undocumented Haitians: The Haitian government has announced it will launch a survey of undocumented Haitian citizens living in other countries, including neighbouring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s National Identification Office (ONI) will deploy a number of mobile units around Dominican Republic in order to identify undocumented citizens living there and help them regularise their situation. The process will be carried out by Haitian civil servants and members of the Haitian diaspora in Dominican Republic, according to ONI’s director Jean Baptiste Saint-Cyr, though he did not specify whether the Dominican government will also be involved. The survey, which will start next month, will also include Suriname and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The announcement is the result of the dialogue established by the Haitian and Dominican governments after the decision by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal to strip Haitians of the country’s citizenship. A bill by the Committee of Solidarity with Denationalised People, which proposed to grant citizenship to all people of foreign ascent born in Dominican territory between 1929 and 2010, was introduced in the Dominican parliament.

Uruguay – Human Remains Found in Police Station: Human bones thought to belong to two people disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1973-1985) were found yesterday in a police station in Montevideo. The human remains were found by workers doing excavation works in police station number 8 of the Uruguayan capital. Supreme Court spokesman, Raúl Oxandabarat, explained that “the first characteristics of the findings seem to indicate that there is the possibility that it could be a case of burial of people who were detained and disappeared.” The court will be in charge of conducting DNA tests which will be matched against a registry of disappeared prisoners. A report by anthropologist Horacio Solla found that the bones would have been buried around 30 years ago, or more, and would belong to a man and a woman.

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Latin America News Roundup: 16th January 2014

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

Brazil: The north-western state of Arce has asked Brazil’s government to close the border with Peru to stop the flow of Haitian migrants. Since 2010, 15,000 Haitians have arrived into Brazil via the city of Assis, in Arce, on the border with Peru. Local media reports that the flow of migrants has increased considerably in recent days, leading to a situation Arce’s Secretary for Justice and Human Rights, Nilson Moruão, called “unsustainable” and “chaos”. He is asking the government to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. The latest incident come weeks after a diplomatic crisis erupted between Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic, after the latter withdrew citizenship to Haitians living in the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, a situation that worsened after the 2010 earthquake killed over 220,000 and left 1.5m homeless. According to the United Nations, over 800,000 Haitians are still in need of emergency aid.

Honduras: The leaders of the Libre, PAC, and PINU opposition parties signed the ‘Great Opposition Agreement for the Governability of Honduras’ yesterday. The pact aims to establish strategies between the parties’ newly-elected politicians to abolish laws which will negatively affect the Honduran people. Through the bloc, the united opposition have a majority in Congress, with more than 80 deputies, something former president Manuel Zelaya called “a healthy counterweight for Honduran democracy, based on what we can assume the national party will do when in government.” Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara de Zelaya, was the presidential candidate for Libre in the 28th November elections, and contested the results, claiming victory. She now heads the opposition.

Latin America: The London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance research group released their annual report on investment in clean energy yesterday, with some Latin American surprises. Brazil once dominated the sector, but saw its investment in clean energy slip from US$7.1bn to US$3.4bn, the main cause of this drop being a large decline in new investment, which more than halved to US$2.5bn. Outside of Brazil, investment increased slightly, with almost US$5bn being put into the sector across the region, with both Chile and Mexico seeing high figures in solar and wind investment respectively. However, Argentina suffered a sharp decrease in investment in the green energy sector, falling from US$539m in 2012 to US$94m in 2013. Globally, investment was down for the second year running, falling 12% to US$254bn. 

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Latin America News Roundup: 13th January 2014

Haiti, plagued by natural disaster and second on the list of population in slavery (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas four years since the earthquake (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Haiti: Yesterday Haitians commemorated four years since the earthquake that left 220,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. The anniversary was marked by a peaceful march to the Champ de Mars, in the capital Port-au-Prince, where a memorial has been constructed in commemoration of the victims. Organisers of the march used the occasion to call for more transparency in the use of reconstruction funds, and to reiterate their call for dignified housing for all. Between 147,000 and 170,000 people are still living in some 270 camps around the country, which is the poorest in the Americas. According to the United Nations over 800,000 Haitians still need humanitarian assistance, due to poor living conditions and risks of forced evictions from the camps, food insecurity, malnutrition, and the cholera epidemic.

Colombia: A new round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began today in Havana, Cuba. The talks are due to last until the 23rd January, which coincides with the end of the 30-day unilateral truce announced by FARC in December. This round of discussions will focus on the subject of illegal drugs and trafficking, including replacement programmes for illegal growing, integral development plans with community participation in the design, execution and evaluation of the programmes of replacement and environmental recuperation of the areas affected. Also on the table will be the issues of public health programmes and drug consumption. Working groups began analysing the points in December, with the aim of reaching an agreement during this round of talks. The on-going peace talks between the government and FARC have six key points, with accords already reached on the issues of land reform and political participation of the rebels. The issues yet to be tackled are disarmament, rights of the victims and the peace deal implementation, all of which are on the agenda for 2014.

El Salvador: El Salvador held its first ever presidential debate last night, ahead of the elections due to be held on 2nd February in the Central American state. The debate, which took place in the capital San Salvador, was sponsored by the association of Salvadoran broadcast media and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and moderated by Mexican journalist Armando Guzmán from Univsion. The five candidates, including current vice president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who is one of the frontrunners, discussed education, security, healthcare, and the economy.  Meanwhile, through a communication, the main gangs in the country have confirmed that the peace process would continue at a national level throughout the campaigning period, and pledged to help the elections go ahead without problems.

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