Rope isolated on white background
On the island of Hispaniola, evenly split down the middle and home to both the Dominican Republic (D.R.) and Haiti, there has long been cross-over between the two countries, with an estimated 450,000 Haitian migrants currently residing in the D.R., a richer country.

In recent weeks, however, the Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina announced plans to register migrants and expel undocumented Haitians (or those of Haitian descent) from the country. President Medina’s expulsion plans, which come on the heels of his re-election campaign, have been enormously popular domestically, with many Dominican Republic residents claiming that Haitian migrants drain resources from what is already a very poor country. Systemic racism also plays a part, as many D.R. residents regard their darker, French-speaking and poorer Haitian neighbors as intruders who have put a strain on the country’s weak public system.

As part of the plan, President Medina’s government also proposed the Amnesty Plan – migrants were required to register with the government by June 17, 2015 or face deportation from the D.R. However, according to Celso Perez, a fellow at Human Rights Watch, the government has accepted less than 2 percent of applicants for regularization of Haitian immigrants. Officials also say that the paperwork process carries hidden costs and is frustratingly bureaucratic, which makes it hard for the less educated and the well-off to successfully complete the process. Applicants, for example, must pay RD$1,000 to 1,5000 (US$23 to US$35) to get documents signed by a notary public. For applicants who have to travel to cities where they used to live, the expense can also become compounded. Costs of attorneys, who can help ensure all the paperwork is in order, can also cost up to RD$15,000 (US$350) – an insurmountable cost for applicants who earn low salaries. John Thomas, a D.R. police officer working in Sabaneta, stated that “a lot of the Haitians who have paid fees but keep having to pay more and submit more documents feel like they are being robbed.”

According to officials, only 290,000 of the estimated 450,000 migrants eligible to apply for naturalization completed the application process before the June deadline. These people, who lack sufficient documentation proving ties to the D.R., now must live in a state of uncertainty and fear of sudden expulsion from the country.

President Medina’s plans have had the biggest impact on the D.R.’s poorest migrants; many of whom came to the country in order to escape horrible levels of poverty in Haiti (which has still not recovered economically from the 2010 hurricane). Unable to pay the application fees, and faced with a complicated application process, these poor migrants now live in uncertainty and anxiety of being woken up in the middle of the night by D.R. police and forced to leave. Many mixed families, cities and villages throughout the country now find themselves living in fear of suddenly being ripped apart.

For those who have not been forcibly expelled, many have started to regard leaving the country of their own volition as their best option. According to government figures, more than 31,000 Haitians have left the country so far, with many carting their belongings over the border in the middle of the night in order to avoid police-mandated expulsion.

For now, however, it seems that pressure placed on the D.R. government by human rights organizations and the international community have been effective in stopping what many feared would be a mass exodus of migrants from the country and a ‘human rights catastrophe.’ However, according to Laurel Fletcher, a human rights professor at University of California, Berkeley, it is now more critical than ever that the United States and international community continue to maintain pressure on the Dominican Republic and scrutinize President Medina’s plans to expel undocumented Haitians from the country.

– Ana Powell

Sources: Huffington Post, The New York Times,,US News

The Roma people—also vernacularly referred to as “gypsies”—have become a widely discussed topic in the European Union over the past few years. Despite being Europe’s largest, stateless ethnic minority (more than 10 million people), they are still mired in poverty and bereft of opportunity and political representation all across the continent.

With Romania and Bulgaria, two member states containing a considerably large Roma population, becoming party of the Schengen Area this year, some Western European politicians are deploying xenophobic rhetoric to their own advantages. Much of this xenophobia is targeting Romanian Roma immigrants.

Comprising somewhere between 5-10% of Romania’s total population, an estimated 80% of Romanian Roma population lives in poverty. With the rise of the far-right across Europe, the community has fallen target to racial discrimination and violent abuses; an extremist organization in Romania even suggested that Roma women should be sterilized.

The socio-economic tribulations that grip the Romanian Roma community stem from centuries of segregation and prejudice. Furthermore, the widespread prejudice to view them as unwilling to work and as free riders also contribute to the tension between the majority society and the Roma community.

In many parts of Europe—Western and Eastern alike—Roma people live in segregated communities with inadequate access to water and electricity. They are also at constant risk of forced eviction and hostility from surrounding majority population. The latter of which often manifests itself violently. In many cases, they are relocated to suburban landfills with no access to running water or electricity. With sometimes more than 13 people living in a single room, their hygienic wellbeing is greatly at risk. To make matters worse, being placed in remote locations also deprive the children of the opportunity to attend school since often times they are outside of school bus routes.

In 2012, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights conducted a survey whose findings were truly shocking for a continent that boasts some of the highest human development indexes in the world. In Romania alone, nearly a quarter of Roma children aged 7 to 15 do not attend school and nearly a third of respondents aged 20 to 64 are unemployed, in contrast to the average of 11% among the country’s non-roma population.

Since Romania has at last joined the Schengen Area and its people have finally received full rights as citizens of the EU, many politicians in more prosperous member states such as the UK have found the anti-immigrant discourse to be a convenient tool in winning over public opinion. Unfortunately, unless the EU soon finds measures to solve the millennium-old prejudice towards the community, the Roma will inevitably be exploited as the political bête noire within the politics of inter-Schengen migration.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Amnesty International, Express, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Romania-Insider, SPIEGEL Online International
Photo: March Inbetween