Haitian migrants get temporary work permits in the Dominican Republic
Over 200 Haitian migrant workers have received Temporary Worker Permit Identification Cards fro the Dominican Republic's General Directorate of Migration. As Cy Winter, Chief of the International Organization for Migration's Dominican Republic office explained to me, Gerry Adams, the id cards are part of ongoing efforts to increase the Government's capacity to process labour migrants. It is a big turning point in migration management here on the island.
For the first time, we have an irregular workforce that is being regularized into the legal migration processes and the social security and medical support processes in the Dominican Republic. It's been a long time coming but migration law was signed in 2005 or 4. And then seven years later, the actual regulation to determine how to carry out that law was signed into effect by the previous president, Lionel Fernandez. About three months later, last January, we had our first visas granted to the first applicants who were entering into the country as labour migrants. It was 400-odd of them.
And that group, they required an additional process once in the counrty to receive their actual migration id card. So it was the big day because where people actually had their final card and with that card, they can now walk back and forth across the border.
Adams: Can you describe what they will be doing?
Winter: Most of them were workers on banana plantations, the largest of which was Plantaciones del Norte. And they will be coming in. they typically stay for 11 months cutting bananas and then harvesting bananas and then processing them in a processing plant and packing them into the containers and shipping. During Christmas, they'll return back to Haiti and be able to come back again. These migration permits are only good for one year so every year, the employer has to re-establish that the person is still employed. The big change is that this person is not a resident in the country. And not being a resident means that if they have a child here, the child retains the Haitian nationality.
Adams: Before the permits were given, were the workers harassed at the border?
Winter: There are some fair assumptions that people can make as to the level of difficulty that irregular migrants have to go through to go back and forth across any border and this one is no different. If you do not have proper documentation and you want to get across the border, it's not going to be easy. There are going to be problems and yes, these workers had over the years gone through different types of problems to get back and forth.
Adams: What do the Dominican workers feel about this? Is there a problem between Dominican workers and Haitian workers to fill these jobs?
Winter: There is more of an issue I think in the construction area. But the key message that we and other of our partners – the ILO and other labour organizations – give on labour migration, is that if you give migrant labourers the same rights under the law as national labourers and there is a fair playing field, so the Dominican workers have a vested interest in insuring that irregular Haitian workers get the same rights under the law as workers because then there is no real financial advantage to hiring them. So we have more and more labour unions realizing this and beginning to come on board and support a regular Haitian labour migrant right.
Adams: And I imaging the supports the fact that the workers will be getting money more easily. Winter: Right. Well the key thing here is that this process is empowering and giving the poorest people in Haiti who come here [Dominican Republic] to work, the opportunity to make a Dominican salary but actually be stationed and have home base in Haiti instead of trying to migrate over here and then they have that difficult transporter process if they want to go back. Most people try to go back once a year but it's always difficult so it becomes easier and easier to try and stay here.
So people become more and more entrenched on this side of the border. So the idea here is to facilitate an economic benefit for both countries.
Adams: Cy Winter, Chief of the International Organization for Migration's Dominican Republic office. Gerry Adams, United Nations.