Dominica’s minister of justice, immigration and national security has confirmed that his ministry will resume issuing visas to Haitian nationals, after halting the program last year.
However, Rayburn Blackmoore told state media that the visa program for Haitians will be governed by strict rules. These include a 25 visas per month cap and intense oversight to thwart abuses of the system.
It was in 2015 that a temporary halt on the issuance of visas to Haitians was first announced. This week, Blackmoore defended the move.
“The decision to put a stay on the insurance of visas to Haitian nationals had to be taken in order to strengthen this instrument," he said. "Consequently, a new structure has been put in place within the administrative section in the ministry for processing all visas."
He also addressed the need for a cap on the number of visas that will be processed: "Not more than 25 visas per month, except in exceptional cases.”
Haiti is part of the 15-member Caribbean Community grouping, which boasts free movement as one of its key pillars, but unlike nationals from other member states, Haitians require a visa to enter countries in that grouping.
For years, former Haitian president Michel Martelly appealed to the bloc to move expeditiously to remove the visa requirements needed for his citizens.
Dominica implemented its visa requirement for Haitians in 2005. Dominica is the eastern Caribbean country with the largest Haitian population; to date, just over 6,000 visas have been issued to Haitian nationals.
Dominica was home to a thriving, now dormant, Haitian Association, headed by Roland Desir, who is now a citizen and has lived in Dominica for almost two decades.
The majority of Haitians in Dominica are employed in the agriculture sector.
Over the past year, most of the news on Haitians centered on those in the Dominican Republic and the move by authorities in that country that human rights groups say have rendered generations of people stateless. The Dominican Republic stripped tens of thousands of citizenship, turning Haitians and their children into "ghost citizens," who have no documentation to access work, healthcare, schooling, or the right to live in either nation on the island.
Haitian migration into Dominica started in earnest around 2000, with many Haitians opting to migrate to Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Maarten from the Eastern Caribbean country.
The country’s immigration minister says the revamped visa system, with its new regulations, will provide greater oversight of the system.