AFRICANGLOBE – The resurgence of anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic made itself visible in recent weeks following the controversial citizenship ruling passed by the highest Dominican court in October.
Now, after a case of mob violence this past Saturday that resulted in the lynching of a Haitian man and the mass expulsion of hundreds of migrants, the situation appears to be getting progressively more fraught.
Regional blowback, in the form of possible sanctions by the Caribbean Community (Caricom), could add to the already intense international pressure faced by Dominican President Danilo Medina’s government.
There was some sense that the momentum to hold Santo Domingo to account had stalled following Venezuela-brokered talks that simply resolved to “prioritize dialogue.” The escalation in tensions following this weekend’s mob violence may have changed the equation.
After an elderly Dominican couple was murdered during an apparent burglary in the southwestern border town of Neiba, a mob retaliated by lynching a Haitian man. (The immediate rush to blame Haitians for the crime is yet another product of the climate of hostility that has set in).
Though a number of Haitian migrants voluntarily surrendered themselves out of fear of further violent reprisals, many were also rounded up by Dominican authorities who forcibly repatriated them with no legal process whatsoever.
The forced expulsion has only added to the outcry around the Dominican citizenship law, which threatens to leave over 200,000 stateless, and is the subject of an emergency Caricom meeting on Tuesday in Trinidad & Tobago.
Caricom’s current chairman, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, has been one of the most vocal regional critics of the citizenship law, ominously predicting last month that it could have the potential to “make the Dominican Republic a pariah regionally and globally.”
The body now has the power to start making its chairman’s prediction a reality by sanctioning the state by freezing its bid to join Caricom — a major blow to Santo Domingo’s much sought-after political and economic integration within the Caribbean.
Whether Caricom leaders are prepared to follow their chair’s lead remains to be seen. However the backlash to anti-Haitian Dominican policy has been reverberating strongly enough across the Caribbean– with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States expressing their “collective abhorrence” at the court ruling in a meeting on Friday and the Caribbean Conference of Churches also denouncing Santo Domingo– so it may just be a matter of time.
The sense of urgency here should be underscored by a migrant boat accident that left at least 10 Haitians dead on Monday — speaking not only to the desperation of many migrating out of Haiti but also the potential for the tensions on Hispaniola to spiral further afield.