Dominican Republic plans wall to keep out Haitian migrants

Experts have hit out at a plan by the Dominican Republic government to build a wall on its border with Haiti to reduce illegal immigration, claiming it won’t work unless accompanied by development.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the island of Hispaniola, which was the site of the first European colony in the Americas. They are separated by a 380-kilometre (240-mile) border.

Dominican President Luis Abinador announced on Saturday that work on a border wall would begin in the second half of the year.

“Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we’ve suffered from for two years,” said Abinader.

The relationship between the neighbouring countries has historically been difficult and every time there is a new government in Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, it makes tackling illegal migration from French-speaking Haiti a priority.

Almost half a million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, which has a population of 10.5 million.

On January 14, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against “the wave of illegal migration” and “to reinforce border security and vigilance”.

But for Juan Del Rosario, a professor at the Autonomous University in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, “there should not be a wall … while there remains extreme poverty and political instability in Haiti, which exerts migratory pressure”.

“You could build a 100-meter high wall and people will try to get around it,” Del Rosario told AFP.

For William Charpentier, the coordinator of an independent migrant and refugee body, the wall would be an “unnecessary expenditure” that could be better spent elsewhere.

“They need to increase development projects” that benefit both Dominicans and Haitians in border areas, he said.

But many in the country support the idea of a wall.