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Report calls for Caribbean policy reforms for migrants in poverty

18 August 2003

As the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence following a slave rebellion approaches in 2004, the poverty and human rights abuses Haitians suffer in their own country frequently force them to migrate in order to seek a better life. Ironically, what often awaits them is prejudice, discrimination, continuing poverty, and in some cases, conditions which are in fact a form of modern-day slavery.

Such are the findings of a new report launched today by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which highlights the continuing plight of migrants in the Caribbean. Many migrants are accepted by countries such as the Dominican Republic to fill labour gaps, yet they are also discriminated against as a threat to resources and due to ethnicity, skin colour or socio-cultural differences (antihaitianismo). An often ‘invisible’ minority, many migrants are undocumented, leaving them few rights under domestic law and liable to the threat of rapid deportation, resulting in a precarious and highly marginalized existence. For example, labour rights as enshrined by bodies including the International Labour Organization (ILO) are often ignored, and children of migrants may be unable to register for education or to claim legitimate rights of citizenship.

The report’s author and expert on Caribbean societies, James Ferguson, examines the role of key issues including the lack of development, poverty, inequality and political instability which exist in both sending and receiving states in his analysis of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors influencing migration. The report focuses largely on the Dominican Republic, which has the largest influx of migrants due to its proximity to Haiti and also one of the worst records of human rights abuses of migrant workers, including Haitian cane-cutters. MRG presents recommendations to improve the situation of migrant workers in the Caribbean which include a call for the Dominican government to honour its commitments under the December 1999 protocol of understanding with the Haitian government regarding repatriations, and measures to prevent illegal trafficking of migrants.

Director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimer, stated ‘Both sending and receiving governments should support our call for respect for the rights of migrants. What better time than this historic anniversary for the region to make a concerted effort to address this situation in a constructive way and demonstrate a commitment to non-discrimination and human rights.’

The International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers came into force in July 2003 but has yet to be ratified by any governments in the Caribbean islands. Minority Rights Group International calls on these governments to ratify the Convention, and other relevant international instruments without delay and to implement fully their provisions in regard to migrant workers and their families.

Notes for editors

  1. The report ‘Migration in the Caribbean: Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Beyond’ by James Ferguson is available online.

For interviews, further information or copies of ‘Migration in the Caribbean: Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Beyond’, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].