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20 Oct 2023

Dominican Republic: Haitian Central Romana sugar plantation workers allegedly experience labour rights violations, incl. co. comments

In August 2023, Cronkite News reported that Haitian workers employed by the sugar cane company Central Romana in the Dominican Republic allegedly experience labour rights abuse.

US Customs and Border Protection issued a Withold Release Order on all sugar from the company due to the alleged risk of forced labour in its operations, citing five indicators of forced labour:

  • Abuse of vulnerability
  • Isolation
  • Withholding wages
  • Abusive working and living conditions
  • Excessive overtime

The article also notes the vulnerability of the Haitian workers due to their lack of documentation, rendering them vulnerable to deportation and dependent on the company for accommodation. Children born to Haitian sugar cane workers have neither Dominican nor Haitian citizenship or residency papers, making them stateless and therefore often unable to find work elsewhere.

Workers live in settlements around the sugar mill called ‘bateys’. Workers complained of unreasonable working hours for poverty wages; eviction for those who stop working for the company; and a lack of access to electricity in company accommodation.

A press release by Central Romana stated that it has “great respect for every individual who works for our company, regardless of role, and in that regard, we have always provided appropriate wages, housing and other benefits.”.

An interview transcript published by Truthout further outlines the abuse experienced by Haitian employees of Central Romana, noting conditions of forced labour and a lack of access to electricity or running water, among other indicators of abuse.

A report in October said sugar cane workers had said they met with Homeland Security Investigations agents earlier in the year, though HSI does not confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.