Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Haitians do the jobs many Dominican Republic natives don't want-NY Times

"Haitians have assumed the jobs that many Dominicans do not want."
6/16/15, "Haitian Workers Facing Deportation by Dominican Neighbors," NY Times, Azam Ahmed, Mexico City, 6/17 print ed.

"Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are facing deportation from the Dominican Republic, the latest in a series of actions by the government that have cast a light on the country’s long-troubled relationship with its Haitian neighbors.

Undocumented workers in the Dominican Republic had until Wednesday to register their presence in the country, in the hope of being allowed to stay.

The government says nearly 240,000 migrant workers born outside the Dominican Republic have started the registration process. But there are an estimated 524,000 foreign-born migrant workers in the country about 90 percent of whom are Haitian, according to a 2012 survey — leaving a huge population of migrants at risk of deportation. 

Human rights groups had hoped the government would delay the registration deadline, given the difficulties faced by many in producing documents and satisfying bureaucratic requirements. But there were no indications that the authorities would stall their plan to begin ejecting workers.

“The signals are clear,” said Beneco Enecia, the director of Cedeso, a nonprofit group that works with migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. “The Dominican government is setting up logistics, placing vehicles and personnel to start the process of repatriation.”

Haitian workers, who have crossed the border for generations to cut sugar cane, clean homes and babysit, have long experienced an uneasy coexistence with their wealthier Dominican neighbors. It is a relationship fraught with resentment, racial tension and the long shadow of the massacre of tens of thousands of Haitian laborers ordered by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937.

Dominican officials have long said they have borne the brunt of Haiti’s economic troubles, both before and after the 2010 earthquake that devastated their neighbor and sent a stream of people fleeing across the border.

The tensions peaked in 2013 when a constitutional court moved to strip the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic as far back as 1929. Many of the people affected by the ruling had lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic and knew nothing of Haiti, not even the language.

An international outcry prompted the government to soften its stance somewhat with a law the next year. It promised citizenship to children whose births were in the nation’s civil registry, and a chance at nationalization for those not formally registered.

Advocates and international legal bodies said it still fell short. Anything less than full citizenship left these people stateless, belonging neither to their birthplace nor to their family’s homeland, they argued. But that group does not appear to be the target of the deportations, at least not directly.

Andrés Navarro García, the Dominican minister of foreign relations, told reporters on a trip to Spain that a majority of those subject to deportation had already started the registration process and would not be deported.
For those who do not enter the process, Mr. Navarro said, there will be no mass roundups to deport people. Instead, the government will handle cases individually and work in conjunction with the Haitian government for an orderly transfer of citizens.

Responding to questions from other regional leaders, however, Mr. Navarro asserted the position his government has taken in the past: that the Dominican Republic, as a sovereign nation, has the right to determine its own immigration policy without the interference of other states.

The migrant workers who have registered so far have been granted a 45-day grace period during which they can complete the process. Migrants are expected to produce signed work permits from employers, who can be reluctant to provide such documentation.

The deportations, which could begin in the coming days, have generated a more muted response from other countries than the uproar stirred by the 2013 court ruling, which essentially ordered the mass denationalization of as many as 200,000 Dominican-born children. One reason for the relative diplomatic silence, including from the United States, is the troubled relationship many countries have with migrant workers who enter their borders illegally seeking employment, advocates argued.

“Migrant deportation is something states don’t want to get into because they themselves want to continue to do such deportations,” said Liliana Gamboa, who coordinates an anti-discrimination project for the Open Society Foundations in the Dominican Republic. “I don’t know how much pushback there can be from other states.”

Still, to the extent that deportations occur on a large scale, there is a fear that they will ensnare people who are trying to comply with the law — whether they are children born in the Dominican Republic to migrant workers, or migrant workers who are trying to satisfy the paperwork requirements.

Some advocates worry that the mechanism to identify potential deportees will be to target any dark-skinned people suspected of being of Haitian descent, whether they have papers or not.

“There are no adequate screening mechanisms,” said Angelita K. Baeyens, the programs director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Efforts to process children born in the Dominican Republic whose parents never formally registered them have fallen short. Fewer than 9,000 of an estimated population of tens of thousands have registered themselves as foreigners, as required by the law, a process that in theory puts them on a path to naturalization.

The status of these children is unclear, potentially leaving them vulnerable to deportation as well.

“If these massive deportations occur, will they include by mistake people who were born in the Dominican Republic?” Ms. Gamboa asked. “Will they follow the standards of international law? Will Haiti be able to receive this number of deportees? And what would their status be in Haiti?”

Others have raised questions about the impact on the Dominican economy. For generations, Haitians have assumed the jobs that many Dominicans do not want, filling a vital part of the labor market, often at below-market rates. Production costs could rise, some experts say, if a large chunk of the labor force is removed.

But that remains a distant threat. For now, activists like Mr. Enecia of Cedeso say many are resigned to their deportation.

The criteria is based on racial discrimination,” he said. “Fear, desperation and anguish are the expressions of the people. They feel helpless.”"


2009 NY Times: Haitians degrade their environment:

"The border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic highlights the relative deforestation of Haiti. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY NASA/GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER SCIENTIFIC VISUALIZATION STUDIO," 1/15/2010, "Haiti Earthquake, Deforestation Heighten Landslide Risk," National Geographic

"The island of Hispaniola is still marked by a famous dividing line seen prominently in satellite photos: brown, deforested Haiti on one side contrasted with lush green Dominican Republic on the other."

12/14/2009, "Environmental Destruction, Chaos Bleeding Across Haitian Border," NY Times, Nathanial Gronewald of GreenWire, Malpasse, Haiti

"The spread of deforestation, land degradation and erosion across the border is the surest sign yet that Haiti's ecology is being pushed to its limits.

"The incursions into Dominican territory are creating pressure," said Max Antoine, director of Haiti's border development commission. "The Haitians are creating pressure on their land, creating pressure on their economic space. ... It's a competition between the Haitians and the Dominicans."

Haiti has lost 98 percent of its forests to destructive land use, mainly from the clear-cutting of trees for charcoal production. As vegetation disappears from Haiti, an illegal market for charcoal from the Dominican side is exploding.

The Dominican Republic long ago banned the production of charcoal to protect its forests and began subsidizing propane to wean its population from fuel wood. But that has not stopped desperate Haitians from risking their lives for more charcoal, which provides more than 60 percent of their nation's energy.

Conservative estimates put the weekly volume of illegal charcoal exports at 105,000 kilograms, or 115.7 tons, but the actual number is probably higher. Investigators say they know of at least 10 truckloads that cross the border every week. As Santo Domingo struggles to get a handle on the problem, Dominican authorities say they are getting little help from the Haitian side of the border.

"We don't have the support from the government of Haiti," said Héctor Garibaldis Perez, an environment director for the border province of Jimani. "We are trying to make all possible efforts to face this situation."

The Jimani murders led to a crackdown. Days after the shootings, 46 Haitian charcoal traffickers were rounded up in Los Haitises National Park, a protected zone deep in Dominican territory just north of Santa Domingo. The Environment Ministry said the group had "wrought enormous damage to the flora, fauna and water resources of that important protected area," according to the English daily Dominican Today.

The Dominican army was also deployed to the border region to destroy charcoal furnaces and stop trucks from carrying charcoal to Haiti. And last month, a Haitian man was shot dead in an altercation with a Dominican border guard near the Haitian town of Anse à Pitres.

But Dominican officials say their efforts have stemmed the trade by no more than 30 percent.

Perez, who is heavily involved in investigations into the illegal charcoal trade, said no one can say for sure who is behind the trafficking, but officials believe that a network of cartels has emerged to drive the trade. Both Haitians and Dominicans alike are suspected of involvement.

The island of Hispaniola is still marked by a famous dividing line seen prominently in satellite photos: brown, deforested Haiti on one side contrasted with lush green Dominican Republic on the other.

But brown patches are now spreading into the Dominican side.

"What I've noticed to the north of essentially Haitian land-use practices marching further and further into the Dominican Republic," said Scott Sabin, executive director of the Christian nonprofit Floresta USA. "The land is being completely and progressively cleared."

Floresta is devoted to spreading environmentally friendly land-use practices as a means to combat poverty. Its efforts include sustainable agro-forestry and the "Plant with Purpose" reforestation effort. The California nonprofit actually first began work in the Dominican Republic but eventually migrated to Haiti as it saw environmental degradation there spilling over.

Sabin said the Dominican Republic's deforestation problem is not only related to the charcoal trade. Dominican landowners are letting impoverished Haitians share crops near the border, he said, and Haitians quickly revert to their practice of clearing trees for charcoal. And with Haitian labor dirt cheap, Dominican landowners have allowed sharecroppers to abuse their properties, he said.

Floresta has planted about 350,000 trees in the border region and is scrambling to find alternative means of employment for the Haitians, but the lack of any strong central authority in Haiti has made its task extremely challenging, Sabin said.

"I lost track of how many governments I've seen go by," Sabin said. "I have seen almost zero impact outside of Port-au-Prince of any of them, because they don't have the money, they don't have the power, they don't have the attention span."

Antoine, Haiti's border commission director, is trying to change how things are done in his zone of influence.

Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic is among the poorest parts of the country. Though Malpasse is a major border-crossing point lying along the most direct route between Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo, this town is little more than a collection of wood and tin shacks and market stalls.

Antoine's group has recently gained support from the Canadian government, which is pouring funds into developing the border region. Malpasse now hosts a modern customs and immigration-processing center built with Canadian money. Other facilities are slated for Belladère farther to the north of here and for Anse à Pitres in the extreme southeast.

The commission hopes that by modernizing and formalizing these border crossings, the region will attract greater and more diverse economic activity on both sides, creating desperately needed jobs. Though clamping down on illegal charcoal trafficking can have some impact, only alternative sources of income will ultimately put an end to the practice, Antoine said.

"It's important to concentrate more funds on activities on the Haitian-Dominican Republic border so that we can provide jobs and create more work," Antoine said. "We need rapid intervention from all the actors working at the border so that we can restore the environment and protect the people living in the area from hurricanes and storms."

The Haitian border commission is also interested in establishing a special economic zone to run the length of the border. Antoine is traveling frequently to the Dominican Republic to discuss the plan with private-sector actors there and is reaching out to the Dominican government for support.

But Perez and his team say the Haitian government must first immediately establish a program to replace charcoal with propane and other alternative fuel sources, the same solution that saved Dominican forests from the fate suffered by the Haitian forests.

Meanwhile, as the illegal charcoal trade exacerbates tensions between the two countries, the ecological damage done to Haiti's landscape threatens to pull the neighbors further apart in another unexpected way.

Rapid erosion caused by deforestation is spilling large quantities of silt into Lac Azuei, raising lake levels and flooding the road connecting Port-au-Prince to Malpasse. The original road already lies 2 feet below the water line, but the government has been piling sand on top of it to keep the critical passage open. The lake is rising still.

The government is considering reforesting the hillsides to halt the erosion and dredging the lake and a drainage canal, but thus far, its best hope for a permanent solution is a plan to build a new road on the north side of the lake. That project would cost at least $40 million, and there is no source of funding yet.

But there are growing signs of hope in Haiti. The population seems more receptive than ever before to messages promoting environmental protection, aid workers and U.N. officials say. Storm barriers are springing up to protect urban centers from deadly flash floods, and community groups are experimenting with alternative sources of fuel.

Safety and security seem to be improving, as well, encouraging Haitians to venture out more and tying the nation more closely together. That security is also giving space for the government and nonprofits to focus on solutions to the country's numerous environmental challenges.

But Ron Daniels, founder of the New York-based Haiti Support Project, warns that the nation's stability is still fragile. U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers can only do so much, and the country's political leaders have yet to end their zero-sum game for dominance and come together, he said.

"Given the right political scenario -- I mean by that the political class deciding that it's in its self-interest to embrace the masses of the people and to have progressive policies and so forth -- then this country is going to emerge as a dominant force, at some point, in the Caribbean," Daniels said."


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