'Where You Live When You Don't Belong' is a piece from my project Identidad. Idantite. Identity. which aims to bring to light the current situation of those of Haitian descent living in Dominican Republic. It follows individuals whose citizenship has been denied or revoked by changes in Dominican law and connects these individuals, through the art of photography, to others around the globe.
These images are from November 20th in Pak Kabo where 'deportee camps' have sprung up on the Haitian side of the DR/Haiti border just north of Anse Pitre. It is estimated that over 3,000 former residents of Dominican Republic live in these southern camps, and over 10,000 throughout Haiti. These individuals arrived in the camps after having been forcibly deported or choosing to leave due to physical and verbal threats soon after the Dominican government changed immigration laws, effectively leaving thousands stateless. Some of these individuals were born in the DR and had never set foot in Haiti prior. Most came with the few things they could carry and some came with nothing at all. And now cholera has broken out in the camps. In Pak Kabo, just north of Anse Pitre, it is estimated that 600 'deportees' are living in tents and over 2,500 further up the road in another camp, Tete a Leau. The tents within the camps are made of plastic and old clothes, which let in the dust and rain. Many had fled Dominican Republic in fear that another massacre of those who looked or spoke like a Haitian, like the Parsley Massacre in 1937 where thousands of Haitians were slaughtered, was imminent. I spoke with a man who had lived in the Dominican Republic since 1974 and raised a family there. When he was threatened and heard of the possibility of a massacre, he left with his children and grandchildren who now live in the camps. They lost everything that they had. I also spoke with a 19 year old girl who was born in Aguas Negras in Dominican Republic and had never been to Haiti before. She left the DR with her grandparents after being threatened. She has a infant less than one year old who she is trying to take care of in the camps. A family had been living in the Barahona region of Dominican Republic when two 'forestales' (forest rangers) came to the home, walked in, lit a stick on fire in their cooking stove, and ignited their home while they watched. Six of the seven children had been born in the Dominican Republic and their birth certificates burned with the house. They are now living in the camp and have no papers. People do no feel secure in the camps. During the night strangers throw rocks into the tents, using this as a tactic for distraction while they rob. There is no security either of when there will be food or work. There is no clean water. It seems that the Haitian government has helped by giving those that are deported $30 to use as transportation to get back to the place that they came from in Haiti. Many times this isn't sufficient, or people don't have a place to go in Haiti. I heard that the Haitian government does not want aid at the border camps because they don't want the camps to become permanent-- both discouraging foreign aid and not helping themselves. There are organizations that are helping, such as the Jesuits in Malpasse, a pastor in Anse Pitre and other small organizations, but it doesn't seem like there is a large or consistent effort to help these people. Residents of the camps are resiliently trying to hold on to normalcy. They had started a school under a thatched roof and the children were learning numbers in Creole. An eighteen year old girl who was 7 months pregnant decorated her plastic tent with anything that she could find. They hold on tightly to small possessions, the things that give identity, dignity--a kite made of plastic bags, a guitar made of wood and a bottle, plastic flowers brought across the border, photographs. They are mothers, brothers, sisters with a lives that have been ripped out form under them.
© Amy S. Martin Photography