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Dominican Republic expels 1,800 children to Haiti: UNICEF

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2022 | 4:21 PM
People bathe in the Massacre River on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in Ouanaminthe, Dominican Republic, November 19, 2021. Dominican authorities have expelled at least 1,800 unaccompanied Haitian migrant children in 2022 back to their crisis-stricken country, UNICEF said on November 22, 2022. The Dominican Republic denied the claim. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

HAVANA (AP) — Dominican authorities have expelled at least 1,800 unaccompanied Haitian migrant children this year, sending them back to their crisis-stricken country, UNICEF said.

The Dominican Republic denied the claim, which came Tuesday amid the government's intensifying crackdown on migration in response to a cholera outbreak and ongoing gang violence in Haiti. The two countries share a 240-mile (390-kilometre) border on the island of Hispaniola.

The crackdown has provoked harsh criticism by international observers, including the United States, which have accused the country of mass deportations, racist treatment of migrants and detentions of Haitians in facilities with poor conditions.

Among those fleeing to the Dominican Republic are girls and boys, many of whom are sent back to Haiti through different border points, where they have been received by UNICEF partners at the border, according to the organisation.

The information was first reported by CNN, and confirmed by UNICEF, which declined to comment further. It is still unclear if the children were expelled without their parents, got separated during the journey or fled Haiti alone.

Venancio Alcántara, director of the Dominican Republic's migration authority, denied the claims, saying the agency follows specific procedures with child migrants and that “minors are with their parents at all times.”

“All deportations are carried out with complete and absolute respect for human dignity and human rights,” Alcántara wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Tensions fuelled by migration have simmered for years between the two countries, but they have only deepened since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, which thrust an already crisis-stricken Haiti into chaos.

Dominican authorities say heightened border enforcement and deportations are crucial to national security amid intensifying turmoil in the neighbouring country. An unidentified number of protesters last week attempted to burn down the Dominican consulate in Cap-Haïtien, a municipality in the north of the country, Haitian authorities said Wednesday.

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