HAVANA -- The U.N.'s chief human rights agency called on the Dominican Republic on Thursday to halt rising deportations of Haitian migrants at a time of turmoil in their country.
“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,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement.
He extended that call to other nations in the region. The United States also has also continued to crack down on Haitian migration despite the Biden administration expressing concern for Haiti’s humanitarian situation.
Gang warfare and political turmoil have fueled an exodus from Haiti, with migrants seeking refuge across the region.
In the Dominican Republic — which shares a 240-mile (390-kilometer) border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola — that has prompted migratory and border crackdowns that the government says will “guarantee border security.”
Dominican authorities say they deported 43,900 migrants, largely Haitians, between July and October. Deportation figures also shot up by about 50% between September and October.
Advocacy groups say mass deportations of Haitians from the Dominican Republic ramped up following the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, which thrust an already crisis-stricken nation into chaos.
Such deportations have jumped in recent months as Haiti’s most powerful gang blocked fuel supplies, creating widespread hardships. That blockade was lifted only this week.
Türk also urged the Caribbean nation to take measures to prevent xenophobia and discrimination against Haitians.
But William Charpantier Blanco, head of the National Committee for Migrants and Refugees in the capital of Santo Domingo, said the Dominican government’s “persecution of migrants” has only deepened such sentiments.
While the activist said he understands Dominican security concerns, it is "another thing going after a number of migrants that cross the border looking for work, looking to protect their own lives. They’re honest people who cross into the Dominican Republic to survive."
Türk's call echoed a statement last week by a sister agency, the U.N. office for refugees, urging other nations to halt the deportation of Haitians.
“Attacks by armed gangs, and the recent outbreak of cholera, has exacerbated an already dramatic humanitarian situation in Haiti, which is marked by acute food insecurity, fuel shortages, and limited health care and sanitation,” the agency said. “Millions of children are unable to attend school, are malnourished and live in fear.”