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Dominican Republic plans border fence to keep Haitians at bay

Jim Wyss, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

The Dominican Republic will begin fortifying its 234-mile border with Haiti — adding fences and remote sensors — as it tries to control undocumented migration and drug-trafficking, President Luis Abinader said.

In a speech before congress Saturday, Abinader said the barrier would include “double fencing along the most complicated stretches, and a simple fence along the rest.” He also said new border controls would include facial-recognition technology, motion detectors and infrared cameras.

“Within two years we want to bring an end to the serious problems of illegal immigration, narco-trafficking and the movement of stolen vehicles — problems that we have been suffering for years,” he said during an annual state-of-the-union speech that marks the country’s independence from Haiti in the 19th century.

The border fence is another reminder of how different the two nations are, despite sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, on the eastern side of the island, has one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the region, while Creole-speaking Haiti, in the west, is the poorest nation in the hemisphere.

 

Abinader’s announcement comes amid renewed turmoil in Haiti. Last week, two Dominican brothers and their Haitian interpreter were kidnapped in the capital, Port-au-Prince. And on Thursday, a massive prison break in Haiti lead to a manhunt that left at least two dozen people dead. In addition, anti-government protests are expected on Sunday.

Despite the new fence, Abinader said he’s committed to helping his neighbor. In recent weeks the Dominican Republic has issued IDs to undocumented Haitians and is pursing plans to build maternity hospitals in Haiti.

“We want a mutually beneficial relationship with Haiti,” Abinader said.

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