PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — More than 100 additional people have either been deported to Haiti or left on their own accord from neighboring Dominican Republic after an elderly Dominican couple was killed, authorities and a spokesman for a migrant advocacy group said Monday.
The number of Haitians and people of Haitian descent who've been expelled or volunteered to leave has reached at least 350, said Lolo Sterne, coordinator for Haiti's Office of Migration. Authorities had reported a total of 252 people expelled as of Sunday. Migrant advocates have reported slightly higher numbers.
The expulsions and voluntary departures follow violence that engulfed the town of Neiba in the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic. The couple was slain last week during an apparent burglary near the border between the two countries and a Dominican mob retaliated by killing a Haitian man.
Migrant advocates say many of the deported people first went to a police station seeking refuge, and that some of them volunteered to leave the country because they feared being victims of mob violence. Others left because the Dominican authorities rounded them up in the streets, migrant advocates added.
Dominican police issued a statement saying the people weren't expelled from the country, but rather went to the police station because they feared reprisals and asked authorities to escort them to the border so they could cross it themselves.
Jonave Celeny was among those who went to the police station on his own accord.
Carrying a back pack and a gym bag, the 34-year-old construction worker said he relied on a Dominican friend to physically take him to the police station while others opted to lay low because they were scared they would be lynched.
"Many of us had to go into hiding," Celeny said Monday afternoon, before he boarded a government bus that was about to take him and a couple dozen others to a bus station, where he would then return to his Haitian hometown of Thomazeau, a lakeside community near the border where his wife and four children live. He said he wanted to leave the Dominican Republic until things cooled but planned to go back as soon as possible.
There have been no additional reports of people being killed in Neiba.
Gerpis Suero, of the Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants, told The Associated Press from the Dominican border town of Jimani some people went on their own to the border, terrified that they could be harmed by mobs seeking revenge, while others approached military posts for protection.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic have had a long and volatile relationship as neighbors on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
The Dominican Republic was among the first countries to respond after the devastating 2010 earthquake in the Haitian capital, and has helped with reconstruction by securing contracts on major infrastructure projects since then. But relations between the two have soured since September when a Dominican court threatened to revoke citizenship for residents of the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent, which could affect 200,000 people.
The Dominican government announced last week that it has developed a plan to resolve the legal status of people who could lose their citizenship because of the ruling. Details are to be released once a decree is signed and takes effect in the coming days.
Caribbean leaders will hold a special emergency meeting in Trinidad on Tuesday to discuss the Dominican court ruling and issue a response to the move. St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has been an outspoken critic of the ruling and will attend the special session of the Caribbean Community. Haitian President Michel Martelly is also expected to be there.
Associated Press writer Ezequiel Abiu Lopez contributed to this story from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
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