The Dominican Republic will temporarily shut down its five consulates in neighboring Haiti amid security concerns related to recent tension between the two nations, according to reports. The decision came just days after Haitian protestors tore down and burned a consulate’s flag during protests in Port-au-Prince over apparent mistreatment of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
The five consulates in Haiti will remain closed until Haitian President Michel Martelly “provides guarantees of adequate protection,” said Dominican foreign ministry spokesman Miguel Medina, according to the Associated Press. However, the Dominican Republic’s embassy in Haiti will not be closed.
Medina invoked the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, an international treaty that requires nations to protect envoys from foreign countries. He also mentioned a pair of incidents that resulted in damage to Dominican consulates in Ouanaminthe and Anse-a-Pitres, according to Reuters.
Civil rights groups and local lawyers organized thousands of protesters who marched to the Dominican Embassy in Port-au-Prince last week, days after a Haitian man living in the Dominican Republic was found lynched in the city of Santiago. “Despite our diversity, despite our differences, we are a country, we exist and we deserve respect. We are neighbors, sharing the same island. The question of racism and barbarism need to be finished with on this island,” said march organizer Pierre-Andre Dumas, according to the Miami Herald.
No arrests or acts of physical violence were reported, though tensions rose following the flag burning, which was criticized by the march’s organizers as being contrary to the demonstration’s goals. “We strongly condemn this. A country’s flag is its symbol and needs to be respected. We cannot answer one act of barbarism with another,” Dumas said.
The Dominican Supreme Court passed a measure in 2013 that restricted citizenship for individuals born to illegal immigrants within the nation’s borders. Under the ruling, any person of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 was no longer guaranteed citizenship. Ultimately, Dominican leaders bowed to international pressure and allowed individuals affected by the ruling to apply for citizenship, so long as they possessed a birth certificate by the deadline of Feb. 1, 2015.