Santo Domingo.- Some of the Haitians who currently stage a protest outside the Labor Ministry to demand payment for more than a decade of work in the coconut packer "Kilometro 5," located in south central San Cristobal province, were smuggled into the country in 1999, hiding under a blue tarp draped over a truck.
“Tightly crowded, withstanding the smell of sweat emanating from their bodies, hungry from all the hours they had to travel under a hot sun, 55 Haitians were taken across the border at Dajabón, along the Northwest road, to the coconut plant,” says a report by eldia.com.do.
The group of foreigners said they’ve already spent 25 days demanding their benefits from Rafael Emilio Alonso Luna Villo, owner of the coconut packer, who smuggled them from Haiti helped by the Haitian Antonio Atieno, who “recruits” people from the neighboring country.
During routine checkups along the way, the Haitians only heard when those in charge of the trip told immigration agents "these people belong to Villo" and continued the journey unhindered until reaching their final destination.
A dream in a foreign land
"Get down we have already reached the place," the group of Haitians were told, who heard the words as if the realization of a big dream on Dominican soil. "We have no documents at all, but the boss (Luna Villo) is the culprit, because when he sent for us, he didn’t explain. We only know that we rode in a truck covered with a tarp and when we arrived Antonio told us get down, since we already reached the place," affirms Francisco Ojilu, one of the Haitians who speak Spanish.
He said after being in the country for 14 years the owner of the plant built a hut within the company, known as "Villo" for them to live there.
They say during all that time they were being paid 2,500 pesos per week to peel coconuts. However, after the business closed four months ago, they’ve yet to get their severance pay, "because he is very powerful and has money."
Everything and nothing
They’ve endured rains, sun, lack of shelter and exhaustion from the inhumane conditions under which they affirm they’ve been surviving, but vow to continue the protest until the Labor Ministry helps them resolve their situation.
They say when they arrived to work with Luna Villo, he only had one pickup truck, and now has more than 38 and several SUVs.
"He has become richer with our work. He has enough money to pay us all, but has hired an attorney to not pay us," Ojilu said.