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Mass deportations are starting from the Dominican Republic

Flickr: BBC World Service

Time is up for migrant workers in the Dominican Republic to register their presence in the country. In the coming days there will likely be mass deportations, sending people back to Haiti.

The Dominican government says that while 240,000 people have started the registration process, there are a total of 524,000 migrant workers in the country that were born in a foreign country--90% of whom are Haitian. Officials have said that if they alreaady started registering, they have a 45-day grace period to stay in the DR to find out if they can stay or not. But that leaves a wide margin of migrant workers at risk of being deported.

BACKGROUND ON THE ISSUE: The island of Hispaniola is shared by the DR and Haiti. The two countries have a bloody past and the Dominican state holds on to a prejudicial view of Haitians that was implemented by its former dictator Rafael Trujillo. There have been questionably racist rulings within the past couple of years that have rendered thousands of people stateless because they are of Haitian descent. Click here to find out more about the overarching tension between the the two countries.

Dominican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrés Navarro García, says that there will be no mass deportations and repatriations will be handled on a case-by-case basis, according to the New York Times. However, the buses and trucks that have been lined up tell a different story.

According to an Associated Press report, the head of Dominican Republic’s immigration agency, Army Gen. Rueben Paulino, said that they will begin to patrol neighborhoods with large migrant populations today, since the deadline to register was up yesterday.

The concern with mass deportations is how they dance along the line of ethnic cleansing. For instance, the racial nature of the Hitler's Nazi regime led to the mass deportation of Jews, and some are going as far to compare the two situations. 

The previous actions from the Domincan judicial system, which wiped thousands of people with Haitian ancestry stateless, goes to show that the prejudice that many Dominicans hold for Haitians is undeniable. The fear that human rights activists have for this situation is that Dominican authorities will care less about the papers these people hold and more about the color of their skin. It is quite possible that anyone dark enough to be Haitian will be rounded up to be deported, regardless of their registration standing.

There are a lot of “ifs” right now, but it’s important we keep watch on the DR in the coming days and weeks to make sure that the deportations are carried out how they say they will, and that the human rights of these workers are not thrown to the wayside.