Dominican Republic begins construction of border wall with Haiti

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SANTO DOMINGO — The Dominican government on Sunday began building a wall that will cover nearly half of the 392-kilometre border with Haiti, its only land neighbor, to stop irregular migration and the smuggling of goods, weapons and drugs .

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While the two countries share the island of Hispaniola, they are worlds apart in terms of development. Crime-ridden Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, while the Dominican Republic, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, has thrived in recent decades amid marked political stability.

Many Haitians cross the border illegally in search of work in the fields or in the construction industry in the Dominican Republic.

“The benefit for both nations will be of great importance,” Dominican President Luis Abinader said shortly before pressing the button to begin pouring concrete into the foundations of what will be the wall in Dajabón province. , some 230 kilometers northwest of the capital.

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About 500,000 Haitians and tens of thousands of their descendants live in the Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking nation of about 11 million people, according to the latest immigration survey conducted in 2018.

Abinader believed that the border wall will reduce the smuggling of commercial goods, weapons and help fight organized crime in the two countries.

He initiated the project, which aims to build a 164 kilometer wall, before the anniversary of the independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti on February 27, 1844.

Abinader said the first phase of the project will be completed within nine months at the latest.

The 20 centimeter thick concrete wall topped with a metal mesh will be 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) high and will be equipped with fiber optics for communications, motion sensors, cameras, radars and drones.

The project also includes the construction of 70 watchtowers and 41 access gates for patrols.

Jennifer C. Burleigh