A barrio for undocumented Haitians is built in Montellano
Puerto Plata. A community of undocumented Haitians grows and consolidates itself in the municipality of Montellano, in the province of Puerto Plata. “Los Algodones” or Villa Esperanza, as the people there call it, now has some 1200 immigrants from Haiti.
The place, located 2.1 km from the Puerto Plata – Sosua Highway, was a cane workers settlement called a batey, and was converted by Arismenti Medina, a city counciman from the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), in Sosua and President of The Samaritan Foundation, into a barrio with 250 cinderblock houses, with cement floors and tin roofs.
The project, according to the official, was built with funds from the foundation with headquarters in Canada. A school, two churches and a medical dispensary were built. In addition, they have water supplied by pipes, electricity and a recreation area. Over the years, the Haitians have added little markets(colmados), a barbershop and other businesses.
On Google Earth it is possible to see how this area of some 3000 m² in 2007 was just trees, and in March 2011 it was the same, and in December of the same year the beginnings of the buildings can be seen.
All the houses are the same model: 2 small bedrooms, a bath, a living and dining area, the kitchen and a porch. It is a space of some 50 m² where as many as 9 members of a family live together. Some of the youngest were born in this place.
Felix José, for example, lives there together with his wife, his mother, his stepfather and 5 children, the youngest one year old and the oldest is 13.
“I work for everyone, sometimes in construction but sometimes I go to 3 or 4 months without making anything and I have to get things on credit from the market,” he said in Spanish while to his family members he was heard speaking in Creole.
Just next door to Felix, lives Yeda Lamu, 26 together with another 7 persons. According to her statements, she arrived at Villa Esperanza 6 years ago with a 2-year-old son; now she has one of 4 years old and another of 7 months. When the city councilman gave her husband a house in the Dominican Republic, Lamu tells how her husband sent for her in Haiti, where she lived in a rented house and paid 500 gourds.
Several of the residents in the place admitted that “none” of these Haitians have the necessary documentation to be legal in Dominican territory. They point out that with the National Plan of Normalization they have attempted to normalize their situation but it has been made difficult.
“What they’re doing, is that every time one takes a paper that is needed, they say that no, this is not any good, and we are spending money,” said one of the Haitians.
In the meantime another said he was one of the representatives of the Haitian community, and he stressed that not even those who have been born in the area possess any documents.
“One of the principal difficulties that we have is that 95% of those that are born and raised here in the Dominican Republic, do not have any documents,” he made known.
Councilman alleges ignorance
Questioned about the reason for which the Foundation builds housing for undocumented persons in the country, Arismendi Medina said that he did not know about the immigration status of these persons.
“We only change the living conditions of these persons in this sector, because they live there. The State is the one who has them here, not us. The State has their Department and their intelligence service and Immigration, they are those who have to put that everything into practice, I’m not to blame that every day they let hundreds of persons from some other place come in, this is not up to me as president of the Foundation,” he said testily.
Q. But is it up to you to build houses for them so that they can stay here living in the country?
Life in the barrio
In the Villa Esperanza community, access to education and health is limited. The school only goes as far as the 8th grade, and has some 7 teachers. When the students reach the 8th grade, some of them – very few – choose to move to the city of Puerto Plata in order to continue high school. Nevertheless they say that this is difficult, because in order to reach the school they have to get transportation money.
On the other hand, according to their reports, in spite of the fact that they have a medical dispensary, they only receive a visit on Mondays by a doctor, who is there from 8:00 in the morning until 12:00 noon. It does not function on holidays.
“Sometimes the children get sick in our arms and we have to go to Puerto Plata, and we don’t even have car fare, we take a motoconcho (a motorcycle taxi) on credit and we pay him when we find the money,” said one of the Haitians. The worry is generalized.
Although they receive water and electricity service, when these are absent, many use the water from the creek to discharge their sanitary facilities.
In this area with unpaved streets, need abounds in the houses. Many of the houses do not have a stove to cook so that they use a charcoal brazier (an anafe in the Dominican Republic).
Most of the women do not work, while the men in general earn their livelihood as “construction and farm workers.”
According to the statement by Medina, the Samaritan Foundation, was created to help poor people. In the 27 years it has been operating, they have built about 1500 housing units for poor families and some 10 evangelical churches.
Press releases reveal that a housing project by the foundation could cost about US $1.5 million. At some of the inauguration ceremonies Elio Madonia, the President of the Foundation in Canada has been seen. Also attending the ceremonies are Todd Kuiack, the former ambassador of Canada to the Dominican Republic; Ben Sawatzky, the president of Spruceland Millworks; Ilana Neuman, the Mayor of Sosua and Aquilina Medina the President of the city Council.
Category: DR News |