SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic – One hundred and twenty undocumented Haitians arrested in this northern Dominican city rioted while in the process of being repatriated to their country and tried to take hostage the soldiers and immigration authorities guarding them, officials said over the weekend.
One immigration official said that the incident occurred March 27 and that the situation got nasty because some of the immigrants had knives and clubs.
“They rioted in the buses, they broke the windows and caused other damage and even hit some of the inspectors,” the official said.
Police had to ask for reinforcements from other authorities who managed to quell the uprising.
After the riot, several of the immigrants were able to escape, the official said, adding that he had reports that the protest leaders were “dangerous criminals, many of them fugitives from justice in Haiti.”
“It has become a common practice that undocumented Haitians attack the military and immigration inspectors when they try to arrest them in the streets,” the official said.
He added that in the neighborhoods and communities of Santiago and other northern cities, residents have expressed their alarm at the criminal acts committed by undocumented Haitians.
“They have gangs that carry out assaults, robberies and other criminal acts and that’s worrying,” he said.
Meanwhile the region’s police spokesman, Col. Jesus Cordero Paredes, said that on average, five undocumented Haitians are arrested every day for committing robberies and assaults in Santiago.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and an estimated 1 million Haitians have crossed the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugarcane.