Haitians deported from Dominican Republic in 'cage-like' trucks

This is a screengrab of a video that has been circulating on social media showing people being transported in lorries belonging to the immigration enforcement service of the Dominican Republic.
This is a screengrab of a video that has been circulating on social media showing people being transported in lorries belonging to the immigration enforcement service of the Dominican Republic. © TikTok

Authorities in the Dominican Republic deported 15,000 Haitians in October 2022 alone, despite the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to halt these forced removals because of the precarious health and security situation in Haiti. One group in Haiti that provides help to deportees says that Dominican authorities are targeting all Haitians, no matter their immigration status. 

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"All the lorries are filled. All of them. Three, four, filled!” says the man filming a video that has been widely circulated since it was posted on social media on November 5. From his car, the man films a row of seven lorries belonging to the immigration enforcement services of the Dominican Republic lined up along a road. Several dozen people seemed to be locked into the back of these trucks, which have caged doors. 

Other images of these deportations have also been circulating on social media and in the local press. 

'All it takes is a face that looks a bit Haitian and they’ll put you in a car that looks like a cage'

A total of 14,800 Haitians were deported in October alone, according to a Haitian organisation called Le Groupe d'Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés (GARR, or 'Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees'). Sam Guillaume heads up communications for the group:

As has become apparent on social media, the situation for Haitians in the Dominican Republic has become terrible in recent days. The country decided to deport all Haitian migrants. And the Dominican Republic isn’t just deporting them, no, they are reserving a special treatment for Haitians. They have been beaten, mistreated, thrown into prison. 

At GARR, we provide support to migrants that the Dominican Republic has decided to deport. We’re doing our best to provide at least a little bit of support to some of them. Our focus is the town of Belladère, near the border. We’ve been providing housing to those who are struggling to return home and helping them get back in touch with their families. We’ve also been handing out clothes because some of them arrived in their pajamas. Some also need hospitalisation. 

'One of the people we helped was Dominican. He’s Black and was mistaken for a Haitian'

No one has been checking the documents of the Haitian nationals who are being deported. Not all of them are undocumented. All it takes is a face that looks a bit Haitian and they’ll put you in a car that looks like a cage.

Back in October, one of the people we helped was Dominican. He’s Black and was mistaken for a Haitian and so he was treated just like other Haitians. On just one day, November 17, we helped 60 unaccompanied minors. 

This post says, in French, “This Dominican citizen is named Jonas Biss-Biceinth. He arrived in Haiti along with the many Haitians who were deported by the Dominican authorities in late October. He had his ID card but he had no opportunity to identify himself. He was arrested in the streets of Santo Domingo, then detained before being deported to Haiti. He was believed to be Haitian because of his skin color."

Dominican president calls the UN declarations 'inacceptable and irresponsible'

On November 10, the United Nations called for the Dominican Republic to stop deporting Haitians

"A week ago I called for deportations to Haiti to stop, given the human rights and humanitarian crises the country is facing. I am troubled to see that forced returns of Haitians to Haiti from the Dominican Republic are continuing", said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement. “Unremitting armed violence and systematic human rights violations in Haiti do not currently allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country.” 

Dominican President Luis Abinader responded to the United Nations the same day, calling their declarations "unacceptable and irresponsible". 

“The Dominican Republic is not only going to continue the deportations [of Haitians], but it is going to increase them,” said the president.

The director general of migration in the Dominican Republic, Venancio Alcántara Valdez, added that the Dominican Republic was a “sovereign” country with the right to deport any foreigner illegally present in the territory. 

'The international community should not remain silent'

Sam Guillaume wants to see a stronger global response: 

President Luis Abinader just completely ignored the UN’s demand to stop deportations. He said not only would deportations continue, they would also increase. The international community should not remain silent. The United Nations needs to keep putting pressure on the Dominican authorities so that the deportations will stop because the conditions in Haiti aren’t right for a return. 

Peace must return to Haiti. The reason that so many Haitians are leaving the country to go to the Dominican Republic is because there is a lot of insecurity caused by the gangs who control different parts of the country. The cost of living is also high. So Haitians are looking for a better life elsewhere.

On November 10, the spokesperson for the Haitian government, Homero Figueroa, posted a summary of the deportations on Twitter. According to his numbers, 60,204 people of Haitian origin were “repatriated” between August and October 2022. During the entire year of 2022, that number rose to 108,436 people.

On February 20, construction began on a wall on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican President said the aim of the wall was to “control” immigration and smuggling.  

The Haitian government has found it impossible to control the more than 150 gangs that largely rule the country. Our team investigated these armed groups in the capital of Port-au-Prince. You can find our investigation, “Haiti: In the grip of the gangs”, below.