In a bid to reduce the number of migrants, drugs, weapons and contraband coming in Dominican Republic, its government has begun construction of a border wall with Haiti, causing controversy among neighboring nations in the Caribbean.
The Guardian reported that the concrete barrier will span half of the border Dominican Republic shares with Haiti—about 244 miles long, or 392 kilometers.
A total of 70 watchtowers fitted with fibre optics for “communications, movement sensors, cameras, radars and drones” will be built along the 20cm-thick and 3.9 meters (12.8ft) high concrete wall. A metal mesh fence will be added as reinforcement.
Dominican president Luis Abinader believes that the border wall will be a “benefit for both nations” and “will be of great importance.”
Abinader led the ground-breaking ceremony in the Dominican border town of Dajabón this week. According to him, the first phase of the project should be completed within nine months.
“Each time Haiti has suffered a catastrophe, the Dominicans have always been the first to arrive with help,” Abinader said. “However, the Dominican Republic cannot take charge of the political and economic crisis in that country.”
Haiti and Dominican Republic may share one island of Hispaniola, but they embody stark differences in a lot of societal and economical aspects.
Dominican Republic, home to 10.8 million people, is a popular tourist destination among Caribbean travelers. Haiti, on the other hand, is rife with gang violence and has been chronically suffering from political and economic crisis.
Just last month, Dominican Republic was able to arrest with the help of U.S. government one of the primary suspects in ex-Haiti president Jovenel Moïse’s murder.
According to a 2018 survey, there are 500,000 Haitians living in Dominican Republic. “Many of them work in the construction, agriculture and tourism industries for low pay,” The Guardian reported.
There are concerns the wall will bring opportunities for bribery, as there are soldiers that have already profited from illegal border crossings.
Fiammetta Cappellini, the Haiti representative for Italian charity AVSI, has expressed her concern over Dominican Republic’s move to build a concrete border wall with Haiti.
“The relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti has always been difficult due to their different speeds and rhythms,” Cappellini said. “However, the decision to build a wall worries us, as a possible reason for conflict and violence.”