Stateless and homeless: Despair on Haiti border


FONDS PARISIEN, Haiti: Mileyda Benacio is 19 years old, seven months pregnant and effectively stateless — expelled from the Dominican Republic, the land of her birth, to neighboring Haiti.

Her T-shirt is tight across her burgeoning bump and she has little else to her name as she shelters at a Jesuit mission with the first victims of an immigration crackdown.

Benacio was born in the eastern half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, but her late parents hailed from the west, Haiti, and therein lies her problem.

Thousands of Haitians once crossed the border to seek work, and tens of thousands of their children grew up in the Dominican Republic without ever being granted citizenship.

Now they have papers for neither country, and are subject to detention and expulsion from the relatively prosperous though economically divided east to the impoverished Haitian west.

“My father and mother were illegals in the Dominican Republic and didn’t follow the procedure to get me papers,” Benacio told AFP, sitting in a Haitian school yard.

“I have nothing, not even a change of clothes. I’m seven months pregnant, but I don’t know where to go when I go into labor, and I’ll have no clothes for my baby.”

Many foreign governments and NGOs have raised the alarm about the threat of a new human disaster in a country still recovering from an earthquake and a cholera outbreak.

But the Dominican government has not budged, and so far there is little infrastructure on the ground in Haiti to welcome what could become 200,000 destitute refugees.

In October 2013, the Constitutional Court controversially ruled that children born to undocumented immigrants in the Dominican Republic are not Dominican citizens.

This decision — retroactive to 1929 — left around a quarter of a million people effectively stateless, the vast majority poor blacks, locally-born but of Haitian descent.

Haitians are 90 percent of the Dominican Republic’s immigrants and 5.4 percent of the total population. Just one in 10 has legal status, and many face racial discrimination.



Please follow our commenting guidelines.

1 Comment

  1. The CARICOM organization has single handedly destroyed the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic by pushing these lies to media outlets and politicians.

    By pushing these lies they stop the DR from enforcing its migration policies which in turn maintains the flow of Haitians from Haiti to the DR instead of to other CARICOM nations nearby. They’ve seen how adversely it has affected the DR and know that it would fall on their lap since Haiti is a partial member of CARICOM. CARICOM inhabitants would drop down to Dominican standards of living if the DR starts enforcing its immigration policies.

    CARICOM is being extremely reckless and will stop at nothing in order to prevent the flow of Haitians to their countries. These lies have already caused many conflicts between the two countries and will surely lead to many deaths; all thanks to CARICOM.