What will happen to Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic?

But while one of the most popular rulers in the region spoke of economic prosperity and reforms to the Constitution, it was notable that he did not mention one thing: the crisis in neighboring Haiti.

For a long time Dominican Republic has taken a firm stance against haitian migrantsbut its aggressive control measures have increased in recent years as the spiral of violence in Haiti forces the population to flee.

Analysts like Michael Shifter, member of the Inter-American Dialogue -a research center based in the United States-, say that Abinader has used the crisis as a political tool to “take advantage of the population's fears.”

“The overwhelming majority of Dominicans believe that Abinader has done a good job… They are not willing to take a chance on anyone else,†Shifter said. “His strict and nationalist stance towards Haiti, although it is not the only reason why he won, has increased and strengthened the political support he has,†explained the analyst.

As Haiti's transitional government attempts to restore order and Abinader begins another four years in power, the question remains the same: What will happen now to both neighbors? Some people hope that Abinader will soften his position.

Firm hand

Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haitia country that has been plunged into chaos and gang violence since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. Abinader's government built a wall along its 400-kilometer border with Haiti and so In the last year alone, it has deported at least 175,000 Haitians fleeing the crisis, including unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable people.

The restrictions have sparked accusations from rights groups human rights, which assure that Abinader's policies are racist and violate international law. They estimate that there are 130,000 people of Haitian origin who remain without legal status in the country, without access to basic citizenship rights due to Dominican birthright citizenship laws.

When the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, asked Abinader to suspend deportations due to the high rates of violence and sexual abuse against civilians in Haiti, the Dominican president refused.

“Our slogan, from today on, will be: Either we fight together to save Haiti or we will fight alone to protect the Dominican Republic!”, Abinader said in February.

For his next four years in office, Abinader promised to complete the work on the border wall, shore up the economy and end the corruption that has plagued the Caribbean nation for so long.

Rafaela Tejeda, a 67-year-old retired accountant who lives in the border town of Dajabón, said she voted for Abinader because she wanted him to continue his hardline policies.

“For me this issue is A1. The presidents must take it into account, because if not we will soon be left without a country,” he stressed.

But now that the elections are behind us, Shifter noted that the absence of a mention of Haiti in his victory speech could be a sign that Abinader will use “less aggressive” rhetoric toward Haitians.

Opportunity for dialogue

Haiti is going through a political transition. After he Prime Minister Ariel Henry was forced to resign a few months ago amid a drastic increase in violence from criminal groups and intense international pressure, a group of people is fighting for the opportunity to govern the country. Haiti is also awaiting the imminent arrival of a Kenyan police force as part of a UN-backed deployment to combat the gangs suffocating the capital Port-au-Prince.

Although the transition has been chaotic, a political change in Haiti could open the door to dialogue with the Dominican Republic, one of the objectives of the international community.

“I think the temperature will drop a little bit,†Shifter said. “If Haiti stabilizes a little, I can imagine that there would be talks to try to find a way to work together… There would be an incentive for Abinader to do that in order to obtain the approval of the international community and the United States. United,†he maintained.

Despite international pressure, Matthew Miller, spokesman for the US State Department, congratulated Abinader on his victory on Monday, noting that he plans to “address shared challenges, including climate change and security.”


However the American President Joe Biden did not touch on the issue of Haitian migration and Shifter expressed doubts that Abinader would abandon his firm stance to control migration. And many more people have their reservations that the Dominican president is more moderate.

William Charpantier Blanco, coordinator of the National Roundtable for Migration and Refugees in the capital Santo Domingo, pointed out that his organization has registered an increase in the last six months in “hate speech†against Haitians while the main candidates to the presidency “agreed” on their position on immigration matters.

Authorities have deported Haitians who have documents to legally remain in the Dominican Republic or who have attempted to renew their visas.

“With Abinader's re-election, we don't see any hope,†Blanco said. “The fear is that everything will remain the same, that migrants will not be able to go out on the streets, they will not be able to work. Many have had to cross the border to live here, not because they are in paradise here, but because Haiti offers them absolutely nothing. Here at least there is peace,†he reflected.