Tag Archives: migration

More than 100 million at risk of starvation

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RTX2V8OJ

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

By Umberto Bacchi
March, 2017

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.

Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said latest studies showed 102 million people faced acute malnutrition – meaning they were on the brink of starvation – in 2016, up almost 30 percent from 80 million in 2015.

The hike was mainly driven by deepening crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, where conflict and drought have crippled food production, he said. [nL5N1FF5EX]

“Humanitarian assistance has kept many people alive so far but their food security situation has continued to deteriorate,” Burgeon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

More investment is needed to help people feed themselves by farming crops and livestock, he added.

“We come with airplanes, we provide food assistance and we manage to keep them alive but we do not invest enough in the livelihood of these people,” he said.

“We avoid them falling into famine but we are not good at taking them off the cliff, away from food insecurity.”

The U.N. World Food Programme said last month more than 20 million people – greater than the population of Romania or Florida – risk dying from starvation within six months in four separate famines.

Wars in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan have devastated households and driven up prices, while a drought in east Africa has ruined the agricultural economy. [nL8N1G06JS]

Famine was formally declared in February in parts of South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

In northeastern Nigeria, once a breadbasket for the country, a seven-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants has uprooted some 1.8 million people, forcing many to abandon their farms.

The government says it has clawed back most of the territory it lost to the jihadist group and tens of thousands of refugees are hoping to return to their crops, although security remains a concern. [nL4N1G65JP]

Burgeon said the FAO had raised less than a third of the $20 million it needs within the next two weeks to support almost 2 million people in the upcoming planting season in Nigeria – an investment he said would save money in the future.

“If you don’t support those who want to return to their area to crop then you have to agree that you will have to provide massive aid assistance at least until the harvest in 2018, which is unbearable,” he said.

Lack of funding was also hampering the agency’s response in Syria, where food production dropped to an all-time low in 2016, Burgeon said. [nL8N1DG4UO]

“A lot is going to food assistance and barely anything is going to help farmers who have decided to stay on their land,” he said.

The soaring cost of seeds, fertilisers and tractor fuel was pushing many farmers to leave, making it more difficult to restart the economy once peace or stability returned, he added.

“What we need to do is to help them stay and crop their land and be there for the future,” Burgeon said. “To survive is not enough.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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Necropolitics in Mexico and Central America

By Ariadna Estévez
December, 2016

Despite the presence of armed forces in the street, the most violent neighbourhoods of Honduras are plagued by insecurity. Children can rarely go out and play, even during daytime. Families’ movements are restricted by gangs, who impose “invisible borders” between their gang territories. European Commission photo, by A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Despite the presence of armed forces in the street, the most violent neighbourhoods of Honduras are plagued by insecurity. Children can rarely go out and play, even during daytime. Families’ movements are restricted by gangs, who impose “invisible borders” between their gang territories. European Commission photo, by A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Gang violence is forcing people to flee Central America and Mexico, heading north to the United States in record numbers. Right?

That’s the standard narrative: organised crime and drug trafficking have given Central America’s “Northern Triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) the highest homicide rates on earth, sending scared citizens packing.

Indeed, Honduras ranks second, behind Syria, among the world’s most dangerous countries, followed by El Salvador (6th), Guatemala (11th) and Mexico (23rd). And San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, has the highest homicide rate on the planet.

This is a humanitarian crisis and regional tragedy. And as far as the United Nations and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, are concerned, bad guys are to blame.

But this common received wisdom about violence in Central America and Mexico overlooks two facts.

Both areas are rich in natural resources, including fine woods (such as mahogany) and metals (such as iron, lead, gold, nickel, zinc and silver). And not all the violence plaguing the region is gang-related; it also encompassses feminicide, the killing of environmental activists and political murders and forced disappearances.

My argument is that criminal violence, while potent, is just part of a dangerous cocktail that serves to “cleanse” places where local communities are defending their home territory.

Necropolitics: a killer agenda

This isn’t a conspiracy theory, and this hypothesis is not mine alone. Data indicates that in resource-rich countries, the concurrence of forced displacement with criminal, misogynistic and political violence cannot be a coincidence.

This killer combination reflects a policy of forced depopulation aimed at obtaining “conflict-free” exploitation of natural resources that are increasingly valuable in the modern global economy, such as minerals used by new technologies and renewable or clean energy sources.

To execute this strategy, a variety of armed actors, including drug traffickers and gang members but also mercenary killers, security guards and “sicarios” – in Mexico and Central America are selling their killing expertise to powerful entities, from repressive governments to transnational corporations (or both, working together). Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe has called this phenomenon Private Indirect Government.

This “necropolitics” – the politics of death – is the violent core of what scholar Bobby Banerjee defines as necrocapitalism, that is, profit-driven deaths.

Why negotiate with poor indigenous communities sitting atop valuable oil, water, wood and ore if they can be pushed off their land with hidden criminal, political and misogynistic forces?

Central America’s resource curse

Nearly every Latin American country confronting high homicide levels also has precious woods, metals and hydrocarbons. For the purposes of my argument, let’s look at illegal and legal logging in Honduras, mining across Central America and hydrocarbon extraction along the US-Mexico border. These situations demonstrate how forced displacement, political repression, criminal and gender violence in resource-rich territories coincide.

In Honduras, displacement patterns indicate that criminal violence may not the main push factor. According to a 2016 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of displaced persons increased nearly 600% from 29,000 to 174,000 between 2014 and 2015.

Oddly, that’s precisely when homicide rates decreased. The report is vague on this paradox, suggesting that the increase may relate to worsening economic conditions.

I would counter that the increasingly violent repression of environmental activism, not criminal violence, was the primary displacing force during that period.

From 2010 to 2014, more than 100 Honduran environmental activists were killed. By 2014, the country was seeing massive demonstrations against corporate activity in Río Blanco – the same river defended by environmentalist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in 2016.

Honduras is rich in natural resources, with 41.5% of its territory covered with forests. Yet it is the third-poorest country in the Americas. Conditions there have worsened there since a 2009 coup d’etat.

The poorest Hondurans live in rural areas, where longstanding agricultural, logging and livestock activities have created an environmental crisis. Widespread deforestation, erosion and environmental degradation are exposing communities to natural disaster. That’s why farmers and indigenous groups are increasingly organising against corporate interests in their jungles, and why they’re being killed and displaced.

While much of Honduras’s criminal violence takes place in cities such as San Pedro Sula, it is also concentrated in supposedly protected rural areas that have illegal mining and logging activities.

The Río Plátano biosphere, one of the country’s three major protected areas, and the La Ceiba district, near the Pico Bonito conservation zone, both have gang and cartel activities, and are among the areas sending the greatest number of child refugees to the US.

The government is a partner in this illicit extraction. According to a Global Witness report, from 2006 to 2007, the Honduran state paid more than US$1 million to timber traffickers.

Women, the environment and murder

It’s a common mistake to consider violence against women a private, non-political act. But women are often on the front lines of environmental activism because they tend to oppose activities that are harmful to their children, homes and communities. While there’s no data on the exact number killed, the necropolitical dangers women face is sufficient to merit a network of female environmentalists.

In 2015, Honduras had the world’s highest feminicide rate. The most famous case is that of 44-year-old Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, who was killed in March 2016.

In her final days, Cáceres received texts and calls warning her to give up her fight against the Agua Zarca dam and had recently had an altercation with employees of a Honduran energy company, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., or Desa. She was eventually shot dead in her home.

Feminicide has similarly flourished in Mexico’s most shale-rich states. There, the case of Josefina Reyes Salazar is iconic, though still shrouded in mystery.

A women’s rights and environmental activist in Valle de Juárez, Salazar was killed in 2010 along with other members of her family, because they opposed the militarisation of their town, which was located in an area rich in shale gas.

The Mexican case

According to a forced displacement report, of the 287,000 Mexicans displaced by violence and 91,000 displaced by disaster, most are in the states of Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Durango, Michoacán, Guerrero and Veracruz.

Beyond their high levels of drug-related violence, all of these states are also rich in minerals, renewables and shale gas. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus here on shale gas extraction along the US-Mexico border.

A significant number of the forced disappearances and murders in which the army and criminal gangs are involved have taken place in this swath of land, located above a major Texas shale gas source known as Eagle Ford Shale Basin.

This area is also, notoriously, run by gangs, from the Juarez Cartel that once made Ciudad Juarez the world’s most violent city to the Zetas, who are responsible for thousands of Mexico’s 300,000 forced disappearances, and the Gulf Cartel, whose leaders were protected by local politicians.

Fracking, the method used to extract shale gas, has significant environmental costs, requires 7.6 to 15 million litres of water per extraction and contains contaminating chemicals.

27,000 wells fuel Eagle Ford’s shale gas exploitation. In an arid place where water is already scarce, this intense water use is hurting agriculture and leading to increasing protests.

According to a special report by the National Human Rights Commission, most of Mexico’s displaced people are farmers from communities with self-sustaining economies, environmental and human rights activists, small business owners, local government officials, and journalists.

This makes sense. With the exception perhaps of business owners, these populations represent a specific threat to extractive capitalist interests, either through resistance (activists, law-abiding public officials, farmers) or exposure (journalists).

Thus, while gangs and drug-related violence are major Latin American social problems, civil society must start discerning the entire array of depopulating strategies in Central America and Mexico.

Mexico’s national media is already drawing this link with shale gas extraction. It’s time to complicate the narrative of violence across Mexico and the Northern Triangle by examining the role of transnational corporations, local political elites, and economic oligarchies in the region’s daily displacement and production of death.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Ariadna Estévez 3 Articles 0 Comments Professor, Center for Research on North America, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) ProfileArticlesAriadna Estévez  received her doctorate in human rights from Sussex University in Brighton, UK; her master’s in political sociology from the City University in London, England; and her bachelor’s in journalism and collective communications from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She is currently a full-time researcher at the Center for Research on North America (CISAN-UNAM).

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

 

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The Story of the Komagatu Maru

At long last, a formal apology was delivered in the House of Commons for Canada’s racist behaviour in its shameful treatment of Sikh passengers aboard the Komagata Maru who had the effrontery to seek immigration to the West Coast more than a hundred years ago. Not only were they denied entry, they were subjected to two months of exceptionally inhumane treatment by unflinching immigration officers. While many now know the basics of the ill-fated voyage, the story has many elements that are less well known. I am indebted to Hugh Johnston and his definitive book, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru.

By ROD MICKLEBURGH
May 18, 2016

Unknown-1

Just days before the outbreak of World War I, the most direct challenge to Canada’s racist, anti-Asian immigration policies was about to come to a potentially bloody end in the waters of Burrard Inlet. Thousands of Vancouverites lined the waterfront to watch, while dozens of small boats bobbed about offshore for a ringside view. All eyes focused on the Komagata Maru, an ungainly Japanese merchant ship carrying more than 350 hungry and increasingly desperate immigrant hopefuls from India, and the HMCS Rainbow, the only seaworthy vessel in the Canadian Navy.

The cruiser had been dispatched, after the predominantly Sikh passengers resisted a deportation order by bombarding police trying to board their ship with rocks, bricks and other debris. As the Rainbow trained its guns on the Komagata Maru, those on board bolstered their spirits with patriotic war songs from their Punjabi homeland and prepared for further battle. They vowed to fight to the end. The presence of 200 armed militia gathered on the pier and 35 riflemen aboard a nearby police tug added to the tension.

By then a familiar sight to Vancouverites, the Komagata Maru had been marooned in the harbour for two months by a nasty, hard-boiled immigration agent, Malcolm Reid. An implicit believer in a “white Canada”, Reid took the law into his own hands to ensure not a single immigrant made it to shore. In this, he was actively assisted by local Conservative MP and white supremacist, Henry Herbert Stevens. Now, Reid had a deportation order to force the ship back to Asia. Except those on board were not prepared to leave. The looming showdown and potential of armed conflict so close to shore was a magnet for the people of Vancouver. As chronicler Hugh Johnston put it: “The city had taken the day off to see the show.”

UnknownThe saga of the Komagata Maru was yet another dark chapter in Canada’s racist past. A complex tale, with many twists and turns, multiple agendas and bitter factionalism, the basic issue was nevertheless straightforward. Among a series of race-based policies to curtail Asian immigration, Canada imposed its harshest restrictions on people from India. Orders-in-council in 1908 brought a complete halt to an immigration flow that had seen 2,500 Indians come to B.C. in less than five years. Though newspapers universally labelled them “Hindus”, almost all were Sikhs from rural Punjab. They proved tough, able workers, finding jobs mostly in logging and sawmills. At the same time, they suffered the same prejudice, harassment and white hysteria as immigrants from China and Japan.

Unlike the Chinese and Japanese, however, who mostly suffered in silence, those from India loudly protested the government’s immigration restrictions.

Arguing they had the same rights as all British subjects, they fought numerous and sometimes successful battles in the courts. In 1914, they took the government head on with the arrival of the Komagata Maru. Organized by Gurdit Singh, an ultra-confident Sikh businessman, the ship and its passengers defied the government’s ordinance that barred Indian immigrants from landing in Canada unless they came on a direct journey from India. No such passage existed. Singh boldly picked up passengers in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama, before heading to to Vancouver. His aim was to test the ban in court, confident their rights as British subjects would be upheld.

Sikhs_aboard_Komagata_MaruWhen the ship arrived on May 23, however, Reid refused to allow it to dock. He, too, had a goal: force the Komagata Maru back to Asia, if he could, without a court hearing. To that end, he kept the passengers imprisoned, their ship circled day and night by armed patrol launches. Ignoring instructions from faraway superiors in Ottawa, he stretched normally swift procedures into weeks. And periodically, he cut off food and water deliveries to the ship. At one point, passengers were so thirsty, some licked water off the deck when a small amount spilled from a barrel.

Their fight was taken up by Sikhs on shore, who provided . extraordinary support for those on board. The Sikhs’ determined Shore Committee raised thousands of dollars from their relatively small community to pay for lawyers, ship supplies and expenses of the charter, itself. They kept up a barrage of pressure, until at last Ottawa over-ruled the obstreperous Reid and agreed to submit the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal. With nothing approaching a Charter of Rights and Freedom, however, the five judges ruled unanimously that the ship’s passengers should be deported. Worn out by their many frustrating weeks at sea, those on board accepted the verdict.

Yet Reid, sensing Indian plots everywhere, continued to harass them, ordering the ship to leave without provisions and demanding its huge charter costs be paid first. The vessel remained at anchor, prompting Reid to cut off food and water for three more days. When he foolhardily came on board, the passengers threatened to keep him there. A tall, dignified Sikh told Reid: “If you were starving for three or four hours, you would soon take action to get something for yourself, but we have had nothing for three days. Now you are here, we would like to hold you until we get provisions and water.” The action worked, and supplies soon appeared. The passengers fought back again, when police subsequently tried to board the ship to send it on its way, still without adequate food. That battle brought in the navy, and that brought thousands of excited onlookers to the docks.

The hours ticked by. On the HMCS Rainbow, Commander Walter Hose warned authorities there could be heavy loss of life, if he were ordered to storm the Komagata Maru. Finally, much to the disappointment of the watching crowd and Malcolm Reid, the federal government blinked. They agreed to fully stock the ship for its return journey. At 5 a.m. the next morning, two months to the day of its arrival, the Komagata Maru weighed anchor and headed back to Asia. Racism had triumphed.

Tragically, this was not the end of the story. When the ship reached India, British authorities tried to force passengers directly back to the Punjab. When some resisted, imperial forces opened fire, killing 20 of them at an obscure railway depot named Budge Budge.

And back in Vancouver, bitterness erupted over the role of community informers used by Reid to keep tabs on the situation. Two informers were fatally shot. Shortly afterwards, Reid’s chief Sikh informant opened fire himself at the funeral of one of the victims, killing two worshipers. When Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson, who headed surveillance activities for Reid, showed up at the courthouse, local Sikh Mewa Singh took out a .32 calibre revolver and shot him dead. Before being hung for Hopkinson’s murder, Singh said he acted to uphold the principles and honour of his religion. To this day, Singh is recognized as a martyr by many in the Sikh community.

Copyright Rod Mickleburgh 2016

Further information:

The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar, by Hugh J.M. Johnston, UBC Press: http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299174019

Passage from India, The Komagata Maru, Collections Canada (government site): http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/eppp-archive/100/200/301/ic/can_digital_collections/seeds/seeds/series1/episode-0318/sidebar.html

Komagatu Maru monument near Vancouver's convention centre, overlooking Coal Harbour.

Komagatu Maru monument near Vancouver’s convention centre, overlooking Coal Harbour. © Deborah Jones 2014

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Rod Mickleburgh F&ORod Mickleburgh has been a journalist for more than 40 years, with stops just about everywhere, from Penticton to Paris to Peking. Managed a few awards and nominations along the way, but highlight was co-winning Canada’s Michener Award with my highly-esteemed Globe and Mail colleague, Andre Picard, for our coverage of Canada’s tainted blood scandal. Left the Globe, my reporting home for more than 22 years, in the summer of 2013. Have my name on two books: Rare Courage, containing first person-accounts from 20 veterans of World War Two, and The Art of the Impossible, a tale of the wild and wooly 39 months of British Columbia’s first New Democratic Party government led by Dave Barrett. Co-authored with Geoff Meggs, The Art of the Impossible won the Hubert Evans Prize for non-fiction at the 2013 British Columbia Book Awards. Currently investigating time management, without regular deadlines. Visit Rod Mickleburgh’s WordPress site, Mickleblog.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Haitian descendants risk losing Dominican citizenship, expulsion

At the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr, Creative Commons

At the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr, Creative Commons

By Eve Hayes de Kalaf, University of Aberdeen
April 24, 2015 

Just because people feel that they are a national of a country does not mean the state necessarily agrees. While tourists flock to the Dominican Republic – the most visited destination in the Caribbean – few are aware of the struggle that tens of thousands of people are currently facing to prove their right to a Dominican nationality.

DominicanBorn and raised in the country, many had the birth certificates, ID cards and passports to prove it. Yet the state is claiming that for over 80 years a bureaucratic mistake led them to issue this documentation. Those affected have been left stateless.

The DR shares an island with Haiti. For almost a century Haitians were a cheap source of labour for the sugar industry. As economic interests shifted, migrants and their descendants moved into different professions from construction to domestic labour. Tens of thousands settled in the country and had children. Their children had children.

But Dominicans of Haitian descent have found it increasingly difficult over the past ten years to obtain or renew state-issued documentation. From 2007 the authorities began to reject the birth registrations of native-born people with French-sounding names (meaning Haitian ones) or presumed to have one or more Haitian parents. The DR also retroactively redefined the criterion it used to define foreigners born in the country, withholding documentation from thousands of people.

Then in 2013, a constitutional court ruling validated these practices and effectively stripped the Dominican nationality of all citizens of undocumented parents born between 1929 and 2007 – affecting some 210,000. The court also ordered a revision of the civil registry so that all those “erroneously” recorded as Dominicans could be identified.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which represents the region, was among those who were outraged. It called the ruling “abhorrent and discriminatory” and refused to accept the country’s application to join the organisation.

Bowing to national and international pressure, last May the DR adopted a new law that stipulated that those whose births had been registered (and whose families had formal migrant status) could apply for citizenship. The remainder, an estimated 110,000, were told to apply for foreign residency permits with a view to being able to apply for naturalisation two years later. This was despite their having been born in the country and in many cases having long self-identified as Dominican.

Time is now running out for both groups. A deadline which expired in February has left less than 5% of the estimated 110,000 in the second group registered. Amnesty International has expressed concern that any in the first group remain in legal limbo, having either registered and not received documentation or failed to register. It is not clear how many people fall into this first category. From June 16 the government will be entitled to deport everyone without documentation, with the second group thought particularly at risk.

Politicians in the DR have long invoked the “Haitian question” for political and economic gain. Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the DR between 1930 and 1961, promoted the racist ideology of an imagined “white” Dominican superiority over Haitians. In 1937 he ordered the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent residing on the border.

In the 1990s the popular three-times DR presidential candidate Peña Gómez, a black man who was orphaned in the 1937 massacre, had to endure the opposition playing on his Haitian roots and using crude stereotypes to attack his legitimacy as a candidate.

In his final run in 1996, Gómez narrowly lost to Leonel Fernández, who has since dominated the Dominican political scene. He is back in the running for the presidency in 2016, pandering to the sentiments of neo-nationalists at a time when their fervour has reached fever pitch. Lately we have seen Dominicans marching against illegal first-generation Haitian immigrants in the capital Santo Domingo, and burning a Haitian flag in the second city of Santiago.

Although these anti-Haitian protests are only by a small part of the population, this is the context of the registration row. The Dominican government wants the debate to focus on the country’s tensions with Haiti as this clouds the fact that it has withdrawn citizenship from its own citizens. Those stripped of their identity have even been accused of deception and fraud by deceiving the state into believing that they might ever have been Dominicans.

By invoking the secret “Haitianness” of this group, and by talking about them in the same sentence as first-generation Haitian migrants, black Dominicans have become the ideal political fodder for a ruling elite keen to galvanise votes by revving up racial tensions.

The Dominican state appears to have successfully created a group of re-categorised second-class citizens, administratively segregated from fellow citizens and made to jump through bureaucratic hoops to obtain their citizenship. They are unable to contribute. They cannot work legally. Their children cannot go to school.

They face expulsion to a country many do not know, where they have no family ties and whose language they do not speak. Even if they are not deported, the threat will presumably hang over them and they will have formally lost their status as equals within the DR.

For Dominicans of Haitian descent, many are discovering that despite what their paperwork may say, they are foreigners in their country of birth. It is hard to escape the conclusion that for the Dominican state, they were never really citizens in the first place.

The ConversationCreative Commons

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Eve Hayes de Kalaf is a PhD Student, Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law, at the University of Aberdeen

 

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