The Dominican Republic began building an enormous wall along the border with Haiti earlier this year. The project aims to improve the security of the Dominican Republic by reducing illegal immigration and crime. The two countries are extreme opposites when it comes to issues such as wealth, development, and infrastructure. While Haiti is the poorest country on the American continent, the Dominican Republic enjoys some of the highest living standards in the region. According to officials, the border wall will be complete later this year and is a major milestone for the Dominican government.
Construction workers began building the wall in late February. Once complete, it will stretch a length of nearly 100 miles. It won’t cover the whole length of the border and instead focuses on areas prone to illegal immigration and crime. The dense vegetation across the island, as well as several geographical features, make certain segments of the island unsuitable for construction.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a long and complicated history. Located on the island of Hispaniola, a 250-mile-long border separates the two counties. Crime, especially kidnappings and hijackings, frequently occurs close to the border. Illegal immigration is also a major concern, and up to 500,000 Haitians live in the Dominican Republic where they mostly work in the service industry.
At a height of nearly 13 feet, the wall is integrated with high-tech surveillance systems in addition to more traditional features. Dominican authorities say that its goal is to tackle irregular migration and the illegal trafficking of arms and drugs. They expect the wall to improve the security situation on both sides of the border.
The border wall will be built in two phases. In the first one, expected to wrap up later this summer, a 33-mile-long stretch will be built. The material of choice is reinforced concrete, as well as metallic barriers. The wall will have 19 watchtowers from where border officials will monitor border activity. 10 gates along the wall will allow for legal crossings between the countries. Later this year, the second phase will focus on completing the remaining segments.
Haiti’s poor infrastructure means that it’s not able to cope with natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, which have caused devastation in the country. Combined with its lower living standards, many Haitians have left their homes in search of better opportunities in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
“The Dominican Republic cannot be responsible for the political and economic crisis facing Haiti. Neither can it resolve the rest of its problems”, the Dominican president Luis Abinader said during a speech marking the beginning of the massive project.
Many Haitians remain opposed to the wall, citing concerns over livelihoods and separated families. With Haitians making up nearly 90% of all foreign nationals in the Dominican Republic, countless people cross the border daily. Haitians are also essential for the Dominican economy, where they perform jobs that locals aren’t willing to take up in sectors like construction or fishing.
Last week, a Dominican bus was hijacked near the Haitian border. It was carrying 17 passengers when a locally organized crime group known as Mawozo 400 abducted all of its occupants. Police are currently looking for the passengers, who they aim to rescue. Earlier this year, a Dominican diplomat was kidnapped and held hostage for four days before being released.
The Dominican Republic is also concerned about health-related risks. In April, Dominican authorities were alerted to a highly contagious virus detected in Haiti but were able to prevent its spread to the Dominican Republic.
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