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Haitian migrant crisis exposes rift in the Catholic Church

Immigration has long been a divisive issue on Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

For decades, large numbers of Haitians have migrated – many of them without papers – to the Dominican Republic, to escape the poverty and lack of employment in their homeland.

In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s highest court ruled that children born there to undocumented migrants were not automatically eligible for Dominican nationality.

An 18-month period followed in which undocumented migrants were asked to “regulate their status”.

Thousands who did not meet the deadline left the Dominican Republic, with many saying they were forced out by the authorities.

As the BBC’s Will Grant found, the Catholic Church has played a key role in the migration crisis with some priests defending the rights of the returnees while others have been criticised for promoting what activists describe as a policy of division.


Weekly Mass at Parc Cadeau is a simple affair.

The church is a small hut made of wicker and palm, the congregation spread out over a few wooden benches.

Looking around the camp, one of several along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, you might think that the parishioners have little to be thankful for.

It is surely one of the poorest places in Latin America.

A year ago thousands of returning Haitians arrived at Parc Cadeau.

Some had been forcibly deported from the Dominican Republic, others left voluntarily to avoid confrontation with the authorities.

Today hundreds of families remain on the dusty ranch, living in hastily erected shacks of plastic sheeting, cardboard and rope, trapped in near stateless limbo.

‘Sleeping on the floor’

Soinicier Giles is typical of many in the camp.

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July 28, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated January 21, 2018 at 12:31 AM
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