Santo Domingo, Apr 7 (EFE).- The Haitian Embassy in the Dominican Republic began the process of returning passports and visas to hundreds of Haitian students on Thursday.
The Dominican government had been holding those documents since May 2021 as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Haitian student leader Avenel Archelus told Efe that more than 50 affected students arrived Thursday at that diplomatic mission in Santo Domingo to pick up their passports with visas inside.
Haiti’s embassy said in a statement Thursday that it has received 1,205 visas in total from Dominican authorities. Forty-seven others that had expired but have subsequently been renewed through the efforts of the embassy will be delivered to the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Ministry “so they can attach the visa,” it added.
The Dominican government announced last year that it was indefinitely pausing its student-visa program and auditing the immigration status of foreigners living in the country, most of them Haitians, to determine if they still qualified.
That announcement came after a war of words between Dominican President Luis Abinader and then-Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph regarding the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
The situation led groups of affected students to stage protests demanding the recovery of their immigration documents, which were delivered Wednesday to the Haitian Embassy so they could be returned to their holders.
Hours before the passports arrived, Archelus led a march to the Dominican Foreign Ministry, where he delivered a letter to the head of that portfolio, Roberto Alvarez, “explaining the difficult situation facing Haitian students in the Dominican Republic.”
Without their passports and visas, Haitians students’ status has become irregular and they have been unable to continue their studies and lead a normal life.
“We can’t leave our homes to go to universities and other places in the country due to the lack of a permit attesting to our immigration status,” read the missive delivered to the Foreign Ministry, which informed the students that their documents were ready to be picked up at the Haitian Embassy.
Eliana Dorsainvil, a nursing student, told Efe that she had not been in possession of her immigration documents for a year and had been left with no options. After receiving her passport and visa, she said she and her fellow migrants are very happy.
Besides suspending the student-visa program, the Dominican government adopted other measures last year to curb migration flows from neighboring Haiti, which is plagued by severe economic woes, political instability and gang violence.
One of the most controversial actions was to deport undocumented pregnant women, a move that provoked the condemnation of the United Nations. EFE