The number of Haitians and people of Haitian descent who have been expelled or volunteered to leave reached at least 350, said Lolo Sterne, coordinator for Haiti’s Office of Migration. Authorities had reported a total of 252 people expelled as of Sunday. Migrant advocates reported slightly higher numbers.
The expulsions and voluntary departures follow violence near the town of Neiba in the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic. The couple was slain last week during an apparent burglary near the border between the two countries and a Dominican mob retaliated by killing a Haitian man.
On Monday, the Dominican Republic’s national police chief, Manuel Castro Castillo, visited Neiba to look into bolstering security.
Migrant advocates say many of the deported people first went to a police station seeking refuge and some volunteered to leave the country because they feared being victims of mob violence. Others left because the Dominican authorities rounded them up in the streets, migrant advocates said.
Dominican police issued a statement saying people weren’t expelled from the country but, rather, went to the police station because they feared reprisals and asked authorities to escort them to the border so they could cross it themselves.
Jonave Celeny was among those who went to the police station on his own accord. Carrying a backpack and a gym bag, the 34-year-old construction worker said he relied on a Dominican friend to take him to the police station while others opted to lie low because they were scared of being lynched.
“Many of us had to go into hiding,” Celeny said Monday afternoon. He spoke before boarding a government bus that was taking him and a couple dozen others to a bus station.
He planned to catch a bus to his Haitian hometown of Thomazeau, a lakeside community near the border where his wife and four children live. He said he wanted to leave the Dominican Republic until things cooled but planned to go back as soon as possible.
There have been no additional reports of people being killed in Neiba. Gerpis Suero of the Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants told the Associated Press from the Dominican border town of Jimani that some people did go on their own to the border, terrified they could be harmed by mobs seeking revenge. Others approached military posts only seeking protection, he said.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic have had a long and volatile relationship as neighbors on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
The Dominican Republic was among the first countries to respond after the devastating 2010 earthquake in the Haitian capital and has helped with reconstruction.
But relations have been tense in recent weeks following a ruling by a Dominican court ruling that upheld a provision of the Constitution denying citizenship to non-citizens and their descendants and ordered the government to purge the voter rolls of non-citizens. The Dominican government said it has a program to resolve the status of such residents but has not released the details.
Caribbean leaders will hold a special emergency meeting in Trinidad on Tuesday to discuss the Dominican court ruling and issue a response to the move.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has been an outspoken critic of the ruling and will attend the special session of the Caribbean Community. Haitian President Michel Martelly is also expected to be there.