When autumn comes, a lot of people start dreaming about traveling to warmer countries, and the Dominican Republic is a holiday destination growing more popular for every year. What a lot of people do not know, however, is that it is a country that is breaking international law daily. Do we have any responsibility when choosing travel destination?
We all know the feeling. Autumn in Norway. It is like a grey, wet and heavy blanket covers the city, suffocating every light in its way. Umbrellas, warm coats and thick scarfs start becoming our everyday life. Cafés tempt with pumpkin spiced lattes and chai teas, while we debate with ourselves if it is really worth 45 kr; the student budget can only take so much. At this point, things like “holiday” or “warm countries” become part of our Google history. One of the places that pops up is the Dominican Republic. “A trip to the Dominican Republic offers sandy beaches, a colorful culture, beautiful nature and lots of sun”, according to Ving. TUI asks if you “love white sandy beaches, palm trees and the feeling of paradise?” If that’s the case then the Dominican Republic is “perfect for you”. On their website they promote a country “friendly to all wallets”, and where you “can live for a small cost”. Well, you know the saying there is no such thing as a free lunch? In this case, the Haitians are paying for that lunch. And well, dinner and breakfast too.
You know the saying there is no such thing as a free lunch? In this case, the Haitians are paying for that lunch. And well, dinner and breakfast too.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island in the Caribbean. Due to the location in the Caribbean Sea, hurricanes and earthquakes haunt the island every year. The big earthquake in 2010 probably did not go unnoticed by anyone. Part from killing 200 000 Haitians, it also made one million people homeless. Haitians had been migrating to the wealthier Dominican Republic for decades in seek for a better future, but this year the migration naturally had a peak.
In 2013 the Dominican authorities made the dreadful decision of revoking all of the Haitians their citizenship. The law applies to anyone born with foreign parents since 1929, and violates international law. Haitians living in the Dominican Republic now have no access to education or healthcare, and have no protection under the law. They are not allowed to marry or obtain a driver’s license. The only place where they have a chance to work is at sugar plantations, where they are being exploited. They live in ghettos, called the bateyes, in shelters made out of cardboard and driftwood. Newborns are stateless and unregistered, with no country to call their home. Today between one and two million Haitians are estimated to be undocumented according to UNHCR.
Newborns are stateless and unregistered, with no country to call their home.
The reality of shelters built out of cardboard, feels pretty far away from the five stars, all-inclusive hotels offered by the travel companies. The situation of the Haitians is not mentioned once on any of the largest travel companies’ websites, nor in the magazine’s travel guides. By travelling to the Dominican Republic you indirectly support the cruel government, both financially and by being a living billboard. If starting to work for the UN to defeat the cruelty feels too much, at least make the easy choice of picking another holiday destination. Thailand is supposed to be a beautiful country, or wait that is a dictatorship. But Madagascar would be cool, although that is a country that violates international legal certainty… Well, maybe it is better to just stay at home. How about we have one of those pumpkin lattes instead?
Right now the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo has a great exhibition called “Tell the world about us”. Here, you can also take part of the current situation for Haitians in the Dominican Republic.