July 22, 2015
On July 14, 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a statement regarding the situation on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. The IOM interviewed some 1,133 individuals who had crossed the border between June 16 and July 3, finding that “408 persons (or 36.0 per cent) said that they had been deported by different entities, including the military, police, immigration officials and civilians.” These findings directly contradicted statements from the Dominican Republic and U.S. officials that no deportations had occurred.
However, within two days the press release was pulled from the IOM website and on July 21, IOM issued a new press release making no mention of deportations.
U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas Adams, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2015, stated, “They — they [the Dominican Republic] have assured us that there will be no mass deportations and none have begun yet.” He added: “There were reports of others that when they investigated, they found out that they weren’t — they weren’t really deportees.” A day later the IOM press release had been pulled from the website.
When contacted by HRRW last week, Ilaria Lanzoni, a press officer with the IOM, e-mailed that “They [IOM Headquarters] are currently revising the note.” When the release was re-posted, however, all mentions of deportations were removed. The original release contained a quote from Gregoire Goodstein, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti, stating: “A proper monitoring system is essential to overcome the current uncertainty about the conditions and number of deportations …” However in the updated release, Goodstein’s quote has been changed to “… the current uncertainty about returns.” The rest of the changes can be seen in the screen grabs, below.
In response to an HRRW inquiry, IOM released the following statement on the changes:
Accuracy is extremely important to us and the note was revised to reflect the absence, thus far, of formal deportation orders from the Dominican Government. The more accurate description – forced expulsions – was substituted to characterize what’s being reported from the borders. IOM is working, together with the Haitian and Dominican governments, UN agencies and civil society, to collect and systematize available data, and hopes soon to deploy monitoring teams along the entire border.
But the term “forced expulsion” does not actually appear in the IOM release. Instead, references to deportations were replaced with the much more neutral phrasing of “returns.”
HRRW also asked at whose instruction the changes were made. “We edit our external communications for accuracy on an ongoing basis and this is such a case,” press officer Ilaria Lanzoni responded. Much of the IOM’s work in Haiti is currently being funded by the United States, which has disbursed nearly $2 million to the organization since early 2015, including $642,792 earlier this month, according to the USASpending.gov website.
While any mention of “deportations” was removed from the release, the underlying numbers have not been changed at all. What they show is that a significant percent of those who have left the Dominican Republic report having been deported. At least 36 percent of those interviewed said they had been deported, over 33 percent of those who crossed the border said they were born in the Dominican Republic, and around 8 percent had registered with the PNRE (National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners). In both of those cases, individuals should be able to become regularized Dominican citizens. Whether the IOM removes the word from their press release or not, the data show the same thing: Dominicans of Haitian descent are being deported to Haiti.