US issues new alert for travel between Haiti and Dominican Republic

September 13, 2023

The United States has told its citizens in Haiti planning to travel to the Dominican Republic to reconsider their plans after the Spanish-speaking country announced plans to shut down its borders with the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country on Thursday.

“The government of the Dominican Republic has announced the possible closure of air, sea, and land borders between the Dominican Republic and Haiti as of Thursday, September 14.  This is in addition to the currently closed Dajabón-Ouanaminthe and Elias Piña-Belladere land border crossings,” the US Embassy here said in a statement.

“If the closure occurs, US citizens planning to depart Haiti for the Dominican Republic on or after September 14 will not have the ability to do so, and will need to make alternate arrangements.  The US Embassy is not able to facilitate entry into the Dominican Republic through a closed border crossing,” the statement added.

The announcement by Washington comes amid reports in Port au Prince that a high level Haitian delegation is travelling to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday at the invitation of the Dominican Chancellery to discuss the crisis and probably try to avoid the total closure of borders.

Earlier this week, President Luis Abinader announced the suspension of visas to Haitians as the two countries that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola continue to be at odds over a number of issues.

In addition, Abinader has threatened to shut down land, air and sea traffic between them as the Dominican Republic complained about  the recent excavation of a supposed canal in Haiti that the Spanish-speaking country says will divert water from the Massacre River and harm its farmers and the environment.

The river, which runs in both countries, is named for a bloody battle between Spanish and French colonisers in the 1700s.

Last week, the Dominican government sent a crew to monitor the construction of the canal from across the border, insisting that it wasn’t an intimidation tactic but rather an offer to help detain, if necessary, civilians that might be working on the project without permission.

“If the conflict is not resolved before Thursday, (officials will) completely close the border to air, sea and land commerce,” the government said in a statement.

But observers warned that such a measure would be an economic blow to Haiti, the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, now in the grips of a socio-economic situation exacerbated by the political uncertainty.

Haiti gets much of its imports from the Dominican Republic and trade with the Dominican Republic showed a trade deficit of US$765.3 last year. Haiti only exported US$4.46 million worth of goods

The last time the Dominican Republic fully closed the border its border with Haiti was in July 2021, after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated

In its statement, the US Embassy said that Haiti’s Travel Advisory is Level 4, “Do Not Travel,” meaning that any US citizen still in Haiti should depart immediately as safely as possible, indicating that “flights from Haiti to the United States and destinations other than the Dominican Republic are still operating normally”.

Washington said US citizens should not travel to Haiti due to kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and poor health care infrastructure.  On July 27, this year, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members of US government employees and non-emergency US government employees.

Haiti has been thrown into turmoil since the July 7, 2021 assassination of  President Jovenel Moïse, with the interim government of Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry urging the international community to send in a multi-national force to maintain peace and security in the country.

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