By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- At least five Haitians were killed and nearly 700 repatriated over the past few days, following the killing of an elderly Dominican couple in the town of Neyba, in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where Haitians, blamed for the double murder, have been terrorized and chased.
According to a Haitian Repatriates and Refugee Support Group (GARR), at least five Haitians were killed in reprisal for the murder last Friday of José Mendez and his wife Luja Encarnacion Diaz, near the district of Neyba, and several hundred more, fleeing for their lives, had to take refuge in a military base and police stations.
"After talking to several eye witnesses, we can confirm that at least five Haitians were killed in Neyba after the incidents," Jean-Baptiste Azolin, the deputy coordinator for GARR, told HCNN on Wednesday.
"Four other Haitians are also reported murdered but we have not been able to gather enough testimonies which tally to confirm the information," Azolin said.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Dominican embassy in Haiti said only one Haitian, known as Andres "Coito" Pierre, was killed by a group of people (Dominicans) who had accused him of committing the crime against the elderly couple.
However, testimonies from deportees, such as a lady who said she saw with her own eyes her husband being killed before she could flee or those who said they were forced to bury two Haitians or another one who confirmed the killing of his cousin he identified as Joel Jolly, suggest the contrary.
"You will understand that Dominican authorities are trying to hide the information in order to minimize the gravity of the problem," said Azolin, whose organization is in the forefront of the fight to defend the rights of Haitian deportees from the Dominican Republic.
Repatriations: A humanitarian crisis
Refugee rights activists called the massive repatriations of the past days a humanitarian crisis that should capture international attention.
Coordinator for the GAAR group, Colette Lespinasse
The coordinator for the GAAR group, Colette Lespinasse, denounced on Wednesday the inhumane conditions that characterize the hundreds of deportations that took place over the past four days.
"Imagine a mother who has just had a caesarean and who had to run for her life to seek protection at a military facility, but only to face deportation with a three-day-old baby in her arms," Lespinasse told HCNN.
"And you imagine that no one is there on the border to welcome her because nobody was informed that she was going to be deported," said Lespinasse. "This is cruel and this is a real humanitarian crisis that should capture international attention," she said.
Lespinasse said "mothers and children were in a very bad shape, some were dehydrated and they could find no food or other support they needed because of the conditions in which they were deported." Many had to leave all their belongings behind.
Several women with newborns were repatriated and a one-year-old child, who had some complications, almost died if not taken in time to a hospital, according to the director of the National Office on Migration (ONM), Stern Lolo.
At least 689 Haitian workers and family members were repatriated to Haiti in only four days, according to the GARR group that works very closely with repatriates, but only 464 went through the official registration process held by ONM, according to Lolo.
"We received 252 on November 23, 98 on November 24 and 114 on November 26 that add up to 464, including 183 children," said Lolo who complained that Dominican authorities never informed them of the deportations.
"They never gave us any advance notice so that we may make preparations to welcome our fellow Haitians and this is unfortunate," Lolo, the head of the government migration agency, told HCNN. "But we have some informants on the border that tell us of any arrival and we immediately rush there to receive them," he said.
Dominican authorities claim they did not intend to do any massive deportations but Haitians who feared reprisals had asked security forces to accompany them to the Jimany-Malpasse border to come back home, a version that is challenged by several repatriates.
The ONM housed deportees in a special shelter and gave most of them a small amount of money to go to their home villages.