“While there is no official government policy of discrimination, there is nevertheless a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination against such groups as Haitians, Dominicans of Haitian descent, and more generally against blacks within Dominican society,” the experts said in a press release issued today in Geneva. During their week-long visit to the Dominican Republic, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diene, and the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, met with government officials, civil society, academics, students, political parties and members of the media. The experts noted that while government representatives rejected even the possibility of racism in Dominican society, members of the community “all spoke emotionally of the reality of racism that they had experienced.” “When people in government refer to ‘Haitians’ it is as if they are a monolithic group, all of whom crossed the border yesterday and illegally,” Ms. McDougall stated. “This is patently not the case.” She and Mr. Diene said they spoke with many individuals who described the problems faced by blacks, both Dominicans and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and witnessed first hand the fact that blacks “typically live in worse conditions, are employed in manual and low paid work and suffer a high degree of prejudice.” “Disturbing references are made to blacks as being ‘pig feed,’ ignorant or unhygienic, and many spoke of their daily experiences of racism, including by administrative officials in registration offices, on public transport and elsewhere,” they stated. In addition, the issue of documentation emerged as a major concern for Haitian migrants and those Dominicans of Haitian descent, many of whom reported that, because of their colour or their Haitian looks or name, it is impossible to obtain documents and they are left vulnerable to deportation or expulsion to Haiti, even as Dominican citizens with no connection whatsoever with that country. The experts, who will present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council, called for a wide and inclusive debate on issues of racism and discrimination within the country. “A cultural and ethical strategy is needed to uproot the very deep structures of discrimination and address the invisibility and silence of minority groups and others facing discrimination,” Mr. Diene noted, highlighting the key role played by education and the media in that regard. “The struggle against racism must be closely linked to building a multi-cultural society based on the principles of democracy, justice, equality and human rights for all,” he added. 30 October 2007Two independent United Nations human rights experts have called on the Dominican Republic to combat what they describe as a “profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination” against blacks in general – and Haitians in particular – in the Central American nation.
In just the past week, more than 10,000 people have fled conflict in Hajin in eastern Deir-ez-Zor governorate, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva.“Since fighting escalated in Hajin in early December, more than 23,000 people have fled to Al Hol (camp), effectively tripling its population,” he said. “Many more are expected.”They travel at night with barely any belongings, often having to wade through the minefields and open fighting – Andrej Mahecic, UNHCRThose fleeing Hajin described fierce fighting and said they were blocked from leaving by ISIL, or Da’esh extremists, who used to control large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.“Families fleeing the Hajin enclave and surrounding areas have also told us of a harrowing journey to safety,” Mr Mahecic explained. “They travel at night with barely any belongings, often having to wade through the minefields and open fighting.”On reaching positions controlled by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the “hungry and cold” civilians – mainly women and children, according to UNHCR – “describe being herded into open trucks” and transported northwards to Al Hol camp.Little or no assistance is given to them, Mr Mahecic noted, adding that since early December, “we have recorded 29 deaths among children and newborns”.More than two weeks ago, humanitarians asked the SDF to designate a site en route for Al Hol, where emergency assistance can be provided. This has yet to happen, the agency confirmed.“We have approached the authorities who are effectively in control of the area where we need to work”, Mr Mahecic said. “We have also appealed to those fighting and those with influence over those involved in the fighting to do their utmost to grant safety for the civilians fleeing and to allow humanitarian access in the areas where we need.”Many sleep in the open in freezing cold weather and walk or travel in open trucks from there – Christian Lindmeier, WHOChristian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) described the life-threatening delays imposed on vulnerable families: “Fleeing civilians are stopped at Al Omar oilfields for days for screening and we need access to this area to assist the people there,” he said. “Many sleep in the open in freezing cold weather and walk or travel in open trucks from there.” Amid a surge in arrivals to Al Hol camp and overcrowding, UNHCR and its partners have set up 24-hour response teams to identify the most vulnerable arrivals and provide assistance, especially to unaccompanied or separated children.A number of other emergency measures have been put in place, with additional large tents to provide immediate shelter for new arrivals. The camp already has more than 4,500 tents, with another 3,600 ready to be erected.Child-friendly spaces are also open, along with schools and communal kitchens to shelter new arrivals temporarily, UNHCR said.The majority of those fleeing the fighting are Syrian residents of villages in south Deir-ez-Zor province, who have been caught up in the fighting as ISIS retreated south. Mr. Mahecic noted that they are anxious about their confinement to Al Hol camp and the confiscation of their documents.“Most hope to be allowed to join their relatives and friends in Deir-ez-Zor province and return to their homes as soon as the fighting is over,” he said.’Much more help is required’ WHOWHO, which is ramping up its response to Al Hol camp, has already delivered thousands of medical treatments to support two mobile clinics and four health teams there.The UN health agency has also supported vaccination campaigns, set up disease surveillance and training for volunteers to provide “psychological first aid and basic counselling”, WHO’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean tweeted.“A week ago, WHO airlifted more than 28 tonnes of medical supplies, equipment and vaccines to Al Hassakeh Governorate to respond to growing health needs in north-east Syria,” WHO’s Mr Lindmeier confirmed.“This was the second shipment the organization has airlifted to Al Hassakeh this month,” he added. “It’s also worth mentioning that the first shipment this year was airlifted to the governorate on 8 January. It contained 20 tonnes of medical supplies sufficient to cover 110,000 medical treatments.”Despite the airlifts, much more help is required. “Access does remain the key issue, just to remind everyone, and we need guaranteed approvals to access the camp and the roads leading to it,” Mr Lindmeier explained.