Dominican Crackdown Leaves Children of Haitian Immigrants in Legal Limbo

Posted in English, Immigration, New York Times, Photo, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Francesco Broli for The New York Times

Ángel Luis Joseph, 17, training with a friend near San Pedro de Macoris, the Dominican Republic. His status as the child of Haitian immigrants threatens his dream of playing in the United States.

Published: May 25, 2008

SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, Dominican Republic — Two obsessions define this country: baseball and Haiti. Ángel Luis Joseph, a teenage outfielder with a hot bat, is caught between Dominicans’ devotion to the one and disdain for the other.


The New York Times

San Pedro de Macoris has produced many baseball players.

So many major leaguers have emerged from this sugar town that agents keep an eye on even pint-size players with potential. Ángel, 17, was only a lanky grade school boy when his coach noticed he showed all the signs of becoming a standout. Before long, the San Francisco Giants came calling with a $350,000 offer, he said.

But then politics interfered with his dream. To obtain a visa to the United States, Ángel went to a local government office to get a copy of his birth certificate. Little did he know that the Dominican government had recently begun a crackdown on the children of Haitian immigrants, even those like him who have lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic.

“If your last name is weird, they won’t give you your documents,” he said. “Same thing if your skin is dark like mine.”

Ángel’s request for his birth record was denied, prompting the Giants to withdraw the offer.

His parents, like hundreds of thousands of others, moved from Haiti to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s to work in the sugar cane fields. Their children were born in the Dominican Republic, grew up here and became, in their eyes at least, full-fledged Dominicans. They speak Spanish, dance merengue and play “pelota,” the popular name for the Dominican pastime baseball.

“They don’t play baseball in Haiti,” said Melanie Teff, who has studied the issue for Refugees International, an advocacy group in Washington. “That shows how Dominican this guy and many people like him are.”

The government does not necessarily agree, and Ángel awaits a ruling on his appeal for access to his Dominican birth record.

The issue arose with a fury several years ago when advocates took the government to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose jurisdiction the Dominican Republic acknowledges, to protest the denial of birth certificates to two ethnic Haitian children.

While the case was in process, the government changed its migration law in 2004 to specifically exclude the offspring of Haitian migrants from citizenship. The Dominican Constitution grants citizenship to those born on Dominican soil, except the children of diplomats and those “in transit.” That has long meant that the children of immigrants, no matter their legal status, gained Dominican citizenship.

After the international court ruled against the Dominican government in 2005, ordering that damages be paid to the two children, the Dominican Supreme Court said that Haitian workers were considered “in transit” and that their children were therefore Haitian, not Dominican.

Last spring, the government agency in charge of identity documents, the Joint Electoral Council, issued a memorandum telling its employees to watch for the offspring of foreigners trying to identify themselves as Dominican. It now hangs at every clerk’s office and is shown to people thought to have Haitian blood.

“The issue of Haiti has become very combustible in the Dominican context,” said Daniel Erikson, director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue, a research group in Washington. “You have a deep resentment of Haiti, and that’s driving these responses that don’t reflect favorably on the country.”

Government officials point out the strain that poor illegal immigrants from Haiti put on the Dominican Republic. The two countries share the island of Hispaniola but have vastly different levels of development.

Of course, Haitians contribute, too. They have long worked in the jobs Dominicans did not want to do, mostly cutting cane on plantations that supply sugar to the United States. The government has not just known of their presence for decades but has in some cases encouraged their arrival.

The Dominican government says the new crackdown is a security matter, aimed at wiping out fraud. And in some cases over the years, young Haitians who had crossed the border illegally claimed to have been born on the Dominican side.

But opponents accuse the government of applying its 2004 law retroactively, which they call an illegal practice that has longstanding societal animosity against Haitians at its heart.

“The racist beliefs of some are being used to twist our laws,” said Cristóbal Rodríguez Gómez, a Dominican constitutional law professor at Ibero-American University, who is acting as counsel for another descendant of Haitians who lacks documents. “This is a crime, a monstrous crime.”

In a recent report, two United Nations experts found “a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination” in the Dominican Republic, mostly affecting people of Haitian origin. The report said Haitians and their descendants face “extreme vulnerability, unjustified deportations, racial discrimination, and are denied the full enjoyment of their human rights.”

The Dominican government rejected the conclusions, portraying the relationship between the neighbors as one of solidarity.

Ángel is one of many who find their lives in limbo under the new rules. Emildo Bueno Oguis, 33, a college student who recently married an American woman, could not get his birth certificate either and therefore cannot apply to the American Embassy for residency to join her in Florida.

Mr. Oguis, whom Mr. Rodríguez represents, challenged the government’s decision in court, accusing the council of denying his rights. But his claim was rejected, despite the fact that he had previously been issued a Dominican identity card and a Dominican passport.

Confusing the matter, a lower court judge ruled in favor of another descendant of Haitian immigrants, Nuny Angra Luis, who had been denied her birth certificate. That decision was announced the same week in April as the other, diametrically opposed ruling.

Demetrio F. Francisco de Los Santos, a government lawyer, dismisses the notion that anyone’s rights are being violated. Descendants of Haitians, he argues in court documents, can simply go to the nearest Haitian consulate for their documents.

While Haitian law does grant citizenship to the offspring of Haitians, the issue is complex. Ángel’s parents would have to prove they are Haitian for him to get citizenship in Haiti, a country which he has never visited.

While some are indignant about the Dominican crackdown, Ángel seems surprisingly calm.

Before a recent practice, in which he flagged fly balls and then fired them into the infield, Ángel said his mother could not sleep after he lost the Giants contract. (“Ángel Luis Joseph is one of a number of players in the Dominican that clubs are finding do not have the proper paperwork to prove their identity or age,” the Giants said in a statement, indicating that the team had been forced to look for someone else.)

Ángel may have another shot. The Cleveland Indians have come calling, he said, visiting the humble shack that he shares with his parents and seven siblings just outside a sugarcane field.

The Indians’ offer was about a third of that put forward by the Giants, but still a windfall for a boy from a batey, the name for the workers’ camps that grow up around sugar cane plantations.

But while he awaits a ruling, he acknowledges worrying that he will see his dream disappear a second time.

“God wants me to be a baseball player — that I know,” he said. What he does not know is whether the Dominican Republic, the country he considers himself from, agrees.


Report Details Child Abuse

Posted in Child Abuse, Corruption, English, The Washington Post, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Report Details Child Abuse

Group Cites Aid Workers, U.N. Troops

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; Page A10 

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 — U.N. peacekeepers and international aid workers from 23 organizations have engaged in sexual exploitation of children, including some as young as 6, in Haiti, Ivory Coast and South Sudan, according to a report by Save the Children, a British-based aid agency.


The organization said its findings, combined with reports of similar abuse elsewhere, suggest that efforts to rein in such abuse over the past decade have failed. It concluded that sexual abuse of children — often involving exchanges of food for sex — probably occurs in virtually every post-conflict zone, and it called for creation of a global watchdog organization to probe such abuse.

“Our research suggests that significant levels of abuse of boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported,” said the report, titled “No One to Turn To.” “The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance.”

The 28-page report — based on interviews with 250 children ages 10 to 17 — concluded that it is impossible to know the extent of the problem, since few victims report abuse and few U.N. agencies or private charities compile data on abuse by their personnel. Save the Children acknowledged receiving eight allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors last year by its own field staff, including three that were proven to have merit and led to the perpetrators’ dismissal.

“Who would we tell?” said one Haitian boy, explaining why victims of sexual abuse seldom report the crime. “We wouldn’t tell the police because they are afraid of the [U.N.] peacekeepers. . . . Anyway, I’ve heard that the police do this.”

U.N. peacekeepers have been “identified as a particular source of abuse,” especially in Haiti and Ivory Coast, according to the report. But it praised the U.N. peacekeeping department for exhibiting “managerial courage and transparency” in making the allegations public.

The United Nations ordered the repatriation of more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers from Haiti in November, after reports that they had sexually exploited local women and underage girls. Last summer, Moroccan peacekeepers in Ivory Coast came under investigation for sexually abusing local woman and minors.

Those cases follow a spate of reports on sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers stretching back to Cambodia in the early 1990s. Reports of sexual abuse plagued U.N. missions over the past eight years in Bosnia, Congo, Liberia and several other countries.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the report’s frank assessment and said abuse by peacekeepers and aid workers is “a very serious issue.” He vowed to investigate the allegations and take any “necessary measures.”

Jasmine Whitbread, the chief executive of the British relief agency, said the United Nations and others have made commitments to resolving the problem in the past — without success.

“All humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations, including Save the Children UK, must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head-on,” she said.

Charity: Aid workers raping, abusing children

Posted in CNN, Corruption, English, Photo, Rape, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews
 Stephanie Busari
For CNN 

LONDON, England (CNN) — Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said.


Children like this 15-year-old girl have suffered abuse at the hands of some UN soldiers and aid workers.

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Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.

After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

“It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children’s rights,” said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK. Video Watch a report on the abuse »

In the report, “No One To Turn To” a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: “My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises.

“They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, ‘No,’ but some of the girls did it and got the money.”

Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the “chronic under-reporting” of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence.

According to the charity, children told researchers they were too frightened to report the abuse, fearful that the abuser would come back to hurt them and that they would stop receiving aid from agencies, or even be punished by their family or community.

“People don’t report it because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them,” a teenage boy in southern Sudan told Save the Children.

The charity’s research was centered on Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, but Save the Children said the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children could be found in every type of humanitarian organization at all levels.

Save the Children is calling for a global watchdog to tackle the problem and said it was working with the U.N. to establish local mechanisms that will allow victims to easily report abuse.

“We are glad that Save the Children continues to shed a light on this problem. It actually follows up on a report that we did in 2002 with Save the Children. I think every population in the world has to confront this problem of exploitation and abuse of children,” said Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The United Nations has a zero-tolerance policy. It’s one that UNHCR takes very, very seriously. In refugee camps, we have implemented very strong reporting mechanisms so that refugees can come forward to report any abuses or alleged abuses.”

In 2003, U.N. Nepalese troops were accused of sexual abuse while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six soldiers were jailed.

A year later, two U.N. peacekeepers were repatriated after being accused of abuse in Burundi, and U.N. troops were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan.

Last year, the U.N. launched an investigation into sexual abuse claims in Ivory Coast.

The vast majority of aid workers were not involved in any form of abuse or exploitation but in “life-saving essential humanitarian work,” Save the Children’s Whitbread said.

But humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations “must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on,” she said.

The aid agency said it had fired three workers for breaching its codes and called on others to do the same. The three men were dismissed in the past year for having had sex with girls aged 17, which the charity said is not illegal but is cause for loss of employment.

Other UK charities said they supported Save the Children’s call for a global watchdog.

“Oxfam takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct by its aid workers. All our staff across the world are held accountable by a robust code of conduct,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam charity’s humanitarian director.

“We support Save the Children’s calls for a global watchdog. We will do all we can to stamp out this intolerable abuse.”

Brazilian leader’s visit to Haiti eagerly awaited

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Photo, Politics, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is coming to Haiti amid mounting pressure for him to serve as a moderating force in the Caribbean nation’s political impasse.

A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.
A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.


With the largest battalion of United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the streets of Haiti, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been one of the Caribbean nation’s leading defenders, championing its fledging democracy both at home and abroad. 

But as Haiti continues to drift politically, some are hoping that Lula’s arrival Wednesday will be the political nudge the troubled nation needs to get back on course.

”No one knows what he’s going to do,” a foreign diplomat said about Lula, who has received talking points in anticipation of his meeting with Haitian President René Préval.

”He knows what his colleagues from other countries are expecting,” said the diplomat, who asked for anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lula’s six-hour visit comes as Haiti is entering its seventh week without a functioning government or prime minister following food riots that left at least six people dead including a U.N. peacekeeper.


In its wake, Haitian senators fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis on April 12, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and triggering the crisis.

But as the crisis looms, so do frustrations and concerns in an impoverished country where Haitian and foreign observers are increasingly worried that the political impasse — coupled with the spike in global food and fuel prices — could force the country further into chaos.

”When I came into office, I thought this country was going to progress,” said Eric Jean-Jacques, president of Haiti’s lower chamber of deputies.

“But it’s the same old history that is being repeated. There is always a handicap.”


Two weeks ago, 51 of Jean-Jacques’ colleagues in the lower chamber rejected Préval’s choice to replace Alexis, international technocrat Ericq Pierre.

In frustration, both the ambassadors of Canada and the European Union went on Haitian radio warning that the longer Haiti remained without a government, the more it risks losing the gains it had made following Préval’s February 2006 presidential election.

On Sunday, Préval offered up a new nominee: political advisor and close friend, Robert ”Bob” Manuel.

But as a 53-member voting bloc in the lower chamber met on Tuesday to discuss wether they would support Manuel’s nomination, analysts remained divided over his chances.

Lula’s foreign ministry said the main purpose of his trip will be to figure out what role Brazil and the 7,060-strong U.N. Stabilization Mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, can play in the “restoration of democracy in Haiti.”


”Our job isn’t to give advice,” said a spokeswoman in Brazil’s foreign ministry. “Haiti is a sovereign country. We’re only going to see what role we can play in rebuilding the country.”

Both Préval and Lula are expected to discuss the progress of various bilateral technical programs, such as a food program where Brazil has donated $200,000 and a trash collection program in Port-au-Prince that India, Brazil, and African countries have contributed to.

Brazil and Haiti are expected to sign five different accords.

They’ll also talk about the in-flow of international donations and evaluate whether it’s been satisfactory.

Lula is trying to organize a meeting for Haiti among international donors during next week’s annual World Food Program meeting in Rome.


Recently, Brazilian lawmakers approved Lula’s request to increase his 1,246-strong blue helmet soldiers in Haiti by an additional 100 engineers.

But like his Chilean and Argentine counterparts, Lula is facing domestic pressure to pull his troops out of Haiti.

”At this moment, the Brazilian position has been to renew our work with MINUSTAH. We don’t have the intention of leaving,” said the Brazilian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Rubens Barbosa, a Brazil-based consultant who served as Brazil’s ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2004, said that while he believes Brazil should end its mission in Haiti because of the costs, he sees the South American nation staying involved for the foreseeable future.

As for Lula’s ability to get Préval to listen to the international community, he said. “Lula will certainly try, but without the international community there to help, it’ll be very difficult for the country to come back.”

To read more about Haiti and South Florida’s Haitian community go to



Haitians mourn teen killed in kidnapping wave

Posted in English, Kidnapping, Miami Herald, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press


Relatives and sobbing classmates overflowed the church in the Haitian capital, mourning the latest victim of a relentless kidnapping wave that has seen one person abducted nearly every day this year. 

Sixteen-year-old Karim Xavier Gaspard was tortured and killed by his captors last week, a horrific finish to one of 145 kidnappings registered across the country so far this year, said Fred Blaise, police spokesman for the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Police are investigating the case but have not announced any arrests.

U.N. and Haitian police said they had no new information Tuesday about Nadia Lefebvre, the 32-year-old Canadian intern with medical aid organization Medecins du Monde who was seized May 21 near her house in the hills above the capital.

Kidnapping is up 10 percent from last year but has not matched the nearly 180 kidnapping victims recorded in the first five months of 2006, Blaise said. Twenty of the 26 abductions registered in May have occurred in the capital.

Gaspard’s death has shaken even this violence-wracked Caribbean nation. The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that the teenage son of a local banker was executed after less than four days of captivity even though his parents paid a ransom.

His body was found Friday in an open-air market. Alongside a Tuesday article about the case, Le Nouvelliste posted a blank photo box and the message: “The parents did not wish to publish the photograph of the victim, whose body was so mutilated.”

On Tuesday afternoon, classmates in school uniforms joined hundreds in black suits and dresses, filling pews and spilling onto the porch of a large Catholic church set among concrete homes outside the upscale suburb of Petionville.

Facing a framed photo of Gaspard and a gold urn containing his ashes, mourners sang hymns and hugged grieving relatives. Huddled teenagers sobbed near the doors.

Politics as usual endangers Haiti

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

On Sunday, the U.N. military and police force in Haiti known by the acronym MINUSTAH will observe its fourth anniversary. After a slow and rocky start, the mission has done a good job of offering a respite from the incessant political and gang violence that made life in Haiti so chaotic during the rule of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and after his departure into exile in February, 2004. Sadly, Haiti’s political class has largely squandered the opportunity to create a stable and enduring government that the people of Haiti can support.

New prime minister

Since April 12, when the Senate fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis for his alleged failure to offer strong leadership and manage the economy, the nation has been without a functioning government. President Rene Préval’s first pick to replace him, Ericq Pierre, an agronomist with the Inter American Development Bank, was rejected by lawmakers, ostensibly because of a failure to prove his citizenship. But the real reason was that Mr. Pierre’s very strengths — his technical experience as an international-aid expert — made him a suspect figure in Haiti’s clannish political circles.

Mr. Préval did little to support Mr. Pierre’s nomination, which sank by a 51-35 vote in the Chamber of Deputies. Most members of Mr. Préval’s own Lespwa political coalition voted against it. This was a major setback for a variety of reasons.

Most urgently, the existence of a caretaker government leaves Haiti unable to sign new aid deals or accept millions of dollars in outside aid following food riots that left at least six people dead in April. On a more fundamental level, the fiasco was all too typical of the petty rivalries and selfish concerns that have kept the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country in a state of arrested political development for decades. It suggests that Haiti’s political leaders have learned nothing from past mistakes.

Now Mr. Préval has put forward a new candidate for prime minister — his longtime advisor Robert Manuel. He may not possess Mr. Pierre’s technical expertise, but he cannot be faulted on political grounds. Haiti’s parliament should approve Mr. Manuel and restore a working government. Then Mr. Manuel must put capable managers in the Cabinet who can show progress on the political and economic fronts.

Boost for MINUSTAH

Today, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, whose country has done more than any other to bolster MINUSTAH, will visit Haiti. He should use the occasion to engage in sober talk about the responsibility of holding power. The international community is willing to continue helping, but MINUSTAH can’t stay forever. If Haiti’s leaders want to offer their country a better future, it is past time for them to show that they are up to the challenge.

Brazil to send more troops to Haiti

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press


Brazil says it will send additional troops to Haiti to help build roads and stabilize the impoverished country. 

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim says 100 soldiers from the engineering division will arrive in the Caribbean country soon. He could not specify when.

Brazil experts will also improve water resources and help Haitian farmers produce new vegetable varieties, he says. Deadly riots in April over rising food prices left seven dead and cost the prime minister his job.

Jobim arrived Wednesday with President Luíz Inacio Lula da Silva and other ministers for a one-day visit. They met with President René Préval and some of the 1,200 Brazilian troops stationed there.

The troops are part of a 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.