Above: Members of a UNHCR tea interview a refugee in the Dominican Republic (UNCHR Photo/F Martinez)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
A United Nations-backed census has recently launched aiming to provide better information on refugees and asylum-seekers in the Dominican Republic, many of whom are Haitian.
The census, which began last week, looks to give more accurate numbers on the population of refugees in the country, along with other data like age, nationality and gender.
“This census can be a useful tool for both UNHCR and the Dominican government,” said Gonzalo Varas Llosa, who heads the UNHCR’s office in Santo Domingo.
Llosa said that by identifying where the refugees were and by reestablishing contact, it would help “significantly” in reactivating the asylum system.
Many refugees in the country received refugee status in the 1990s, but never obtained legal residence. Some have waited more than a decade to receive a decision.
The majority of the refugees come from Haiti, along with some from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Syria.
According to UNHCR data, there were 1,785 asylum-seekers in the Dominican Republic at the end of last year, with 595 refugees, most of whom lived around Santo Domingo.
The census is being carried out in partnership with Pastoral Haitiana.