Haitian priest denounces Dominican Republic's border fence

A border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic near Jimaní in November 2014. A border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic near Jimaní in November 2014. | Jos1950 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A Haitian priest has said a border wall being built by the Dominican Republic to stop Haitian emigration “is not the solution” to the problem.

“Building a wall between countries is not the solution, it’s important to build bridges,” Father Pénès Célestin, a priest of the Diocese of Jérémie, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency.

"I invite Dominicans and Haitians to build bridges," he said.

Haiti has seen a surge of violence in recent years. There were as many as 1,200 kidnappings last year, and President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021. Poverty in the country, considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, has progressively worsened following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2021.

Fr. Célestin told ACI Prensa that “insecurity, violence, hunger, and kidnappings” have increased in Haiti and access to education has become increasingly difficult. Many schools, especially in and near the capital, have closed because of gang violence.

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, whose economy is among the fastest growing in the region.

This situation has led many Haitians to seek a better future in the neighboring country, in many cases illegally. 

Dominican President Luis Abinader announced in 2021 the construction of a border fence to impede illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and the movement of stolen vehicles.

Fr. Célestin, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Mexico and serving as a priest in Guadalajara, commented, “It’s normal for Haitians to seek a better life anywhere in the world, it’s human. As long as there are those offering a better life to Haitians, that is, their children, they will continue to leave the country,” he said.

He pointed out that the cost of living in his native country "is increasing considerably," and that many people don’t have enough to eat or drink.

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