Could Gonâve Island Be Made Into A Safe Place For Haitians?

Photo: US Navy. Could this Haitian offshore island, Gonave, be made into a safe area for Haitians?
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Numerous Dominicans marched in protest this week from the Heroes Center to the United Nations (UN) headquarters, in opposition to the recent request from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to accommodate Haitians as refugees due to the deepening social and political crisis in Haiti.

The participating groups view this as a blatant interference by the UN in the country’s internal affairs and a violation of its sovereignty, given that the Dominican Republic has its own Constitution and immigration laws to uphold.

Ángelo Vásquez, leader of the Ancient Dominican Order, a key organizer of the demonstration, said he was unhappy that international organizations are attempting to impose the acceptance of Haitians on the country, while other nations fortify their borders. He emphasized, “No one elected the UN to govern us.”

President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, along with opposition political leaders, has firmly rejected UNHCR’s request.

President Luis Abinader was interviewed by the BBC program Hard Talk on 20 March 2024.

In that interview, Abinader was asked about possibly changing his government’s deportation, given the deterioration of civil order in Haiti, and the relative stability of the Dominican Republic.

The BBC interviewer also suggested that  actions taken by the Dominican government were “racist.”

President Abinader responded to allegations of racism within the Dominican Republic calling these unfounded, given the diverse population composition in the Dominican Republic.

“We are the country that has helped the Haitians the most. It is ridiculous to speak of race. We have never had the problems of Haiti. In Haiti they have race problems,” said the President.

“No, we won’t,” he answered to the request for the DR to officially receive Haitian refugees. “We will continue to uphold our laws and Constitution. The UN should take further action. The United States, in particular, has lagged in providing unified support to Haiti,” stated Abinader.

Meanwhile, the reality is that the Dominican Republic is the largest recipient of displaced Haitians with thousands relocating to find work in the DR.

An estimated 200,000 Haitians study for free at Dominican public schools.

Thousands have crossed over the 391 km land border where there are only 54 km of border gates in areas adjacent to urban areas.

Abinader said there is no need at all for Haitian refugees to be on Dominican territory. He reminded the interviewer that in Haiti there are alternative offshore options, such as the islands of Gonâve and Tortuga,” where the international community could easily set up the refugee centers sought by the UN agencies if it really wanted to.

Abinader reiterated “We are simply enforcing our laws, much like other nations including the Bahamas, Jamaica, the United States, and Canada.”

Sources: Dominican Today, DR1.


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