Haitian workers protest at Dominican govt dept

Migrants say coconut-producing company did not pay them after declaring bankruptcy

Friday, January 11, 2013

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — More than 100 Haitian migrants who are protesting in front of the Dominican Republic's Labour Department building say they will remain there until they get paid by a coconut-producing company that went bankrupt.


The migrants say Coquera Real did not pay them after declaring bankruptcy last month. The government warned the group they had until Wednesday to leave the premises, which they have occupied since mid-December.


Group spokesman Francisco Ogilio insists they are not leaving. He says he worked for the company for 10 years and expects to be paid.


The Dominican Government has not said what action it will take to evacuate the group. The Health Department sent officials to evaluate the camp's sanitary conditions this week.


Meanwhile, roughly 2,000 undocumented Haitian workers who returned to their homeland for the holidays were being prevented from re-entering the Dominican Republic at a major border crossing, officials said earlier this week. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, where they are separated by a porous 225-mile (362-kilometre) border that is manned in spots by soldiers.


The Haitian migrants reside and work in the Dominican Republic, but returned to their impoverished country to spend the Christmas holidays with relatives and friends.


An estimated one-million Haitians, many of them illegal migrants, reside in the Dominican Republic, which has relied on Haitian labour for decades to, among other jobs, cut sugar cane, harvest coffee beans and work on construction sites.


Dominican Immigration Director Jose Ricardo Taveras told reporters that many Haitian workers were not being allowed to pass the Dajabon border crossing because they did not have passports or permits.


"We are simply fulfilling the law," Taveras said at a news conference.


Between Sunday and Tuesday morning, over 1,100 Haitian migrants had successfully crossed into the northern Dominican Republic at Dajabon and returned to their Dominican homes. But some 2,000 others without documents were stuck on the Haitian side and unable to return to their jobs.


The Reverend Regino Martinez, a priest who advocates for Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic, said that he requested last month that the Dominican government allow undocumented Haitians to freely cross over the Dajabon border for the holidays. But Taveras said no agreement was ever granted.


Fritz Cineas, Haiti's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, said he is seeking a diplomatic agreement to resolve the situation.


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