We’re dead citizens – Haitians in Dominican Republic

24 Oct

The mention of Carribean often brings to mind sunny beaches and tanned smiling European tourists in beautiful and idylic holiday resorts.

In this news clip for Al Jazeera, Rob Reynolds reports on the lesser known aspect of the Dominican Republic – the plight of Haitian immigrant workers who are sometimes smuggled into the country as cheap labour for the sugar industry.

In his report, he claims that at least 500,000 to a million Haitian immigrants work back breaking 15 to 18 hours day in these sugar cane plantations, for a miserable average daily wage of 3 dollars. The workers chop, carry, load and reload these sugar canes which are then shipped directly to U.S.

It is estimated that the country imported 185,000 tons of Dominican sugar worth 74 million dollars in 2006; of which little goes back to the workers.

One of the workers who was interviewed said, “It’s very tough work but I don’t have other options.” Another worker who has an injury on one of his hands said he has to continue working despite having no medication “because if I don’t work, I don’t eat”.

The workers live in shanty towns, with no water supplies except a single pump and “medical care rudimentary at best”. They also face racial discrimination and violence as they are illegal immigrants and as such, possess few rights in the country.

Says one of the human rights campaigners who best sums it up, “We are being deprived of our civil and political rights. It’s as if we don’t exist. We’re dead citizens.”

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