Haiti's Government Unsure How Many Haitians Will Leave Dominican Republic
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK, now let's hear from the other side of this border. It is still not clear how many people might be deported to Haiti. And as Peter Granitz reports, that leaves the Haitian government in a tough spot.
PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Gregoire Goodstein is the head of the International Organization for Migration in Haiti, a group working with the Haitian government to facilitate the influx. He says there are four official crossings along the 230-mile border between the two countries. The Haitian government hopes to consolidate deportations to just two of the crossings to make things more manageable.
GREGOIRE GOODSTEIN: If it's a fairly large influx of several hundred people at a border at a time, then processing these people and then directing them to where they're going to spend their first night, that could be a little bit difficult.
GRANITZ: Thus far, there are no camps to absorb a mass influx of people. At the northern crossing of Ouanaminthe, there's a sign but no building. That's because the Haitian government and all its partners here are banking on a 45-day grace period before mass deportations begin. Dominican leaders have said they need the extra time to process the applications of those who've started the process. The Haitian government, for its part, aims to use the time to formulate its welcome plan. At a U.N. military base near the northern border, deputy commander Pedro Gomez is worried the Haitian government will not be able to handle the increased workload.
PEDRO GOMEZ: They don't have sufficient budget to react to a huge number of deportees that arrive to the city. They have room for about a thousand in three different location.
GRANITZ: Haitian NGOs are stepping in to help. Geralda Sainville is with the organization GARR, which is a French acronym. She says her group has offices in the crossing towns and workers along the porous border prepared to help people enter.
GERALDA SAINVILLE: (Through interpreter) When they arrive at the border, we see what kind of condition they're in. They could come without food. They could be hungry. We'll pay attention to their health.
GRANITZ: Sainville says GARR will also try and determine whether the returnees still have family in Haiti. And if so, they'll help coordinate transportation. Many of those who will be sent here to Haiti don't speak Creole. Sainville says some families have lived in the DR for decades and now speak just Spanish, so GARR will help with any translation issues, too. Leaders of the Haitian government, including the prime minister, ministers of defense and interior, met Tuesday to plan their next steps. For NPR News, I'm Peter Granitz in Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.