The Dominican government is defending the deportation of more than 900 Haitians, saying criticism from international human rights group is unfair.

Sigfrido Pared, migration department chief in the Dominican Republic, told a television station that the Haitians who were sent back to their country in the first week of 2011 were not residents of the Dominican Republic, but rather detainees held after recently entering the Dominican Republic illegally.

“We are not talking about those Haitians who vacation in Haiti and return, we are talking about illegal immigrants,” the official told SIN TV.

The immigrants were detained at the border, at military checkpoints on border roads, and for the first time, in special checkpoints on highways leading into the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo.

On Friday, Amnesty International called on the Dominican government to halt repatriations, recalling that "Haiti is recovering from natural disasters,” including a earthquake that left 300,000 dead and 1.3 million injured on January 12, 2010.

“Instead of forcing people to return to a desperate situation," Amnesty added, the Dominican Republic should "step up their efforts to help Haiti and its people."

After the earthquake, Dominican Republic suspended the deportation of Haitians but then resumed the practice at the beginning of 2011.

Pared explained that the new deportations are part of the sanitary cordon laid out by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of cholera into Dominican territory.

The Cholera epidemic has caused more than 3,500 deaths and has affected another 155,000 people in Haiti.

In the Dominican Republic, there have been 152 cases of cholera and no deaths.

Pared stressed that repatriations will continue in the coming days, but that there have been no raids and that the Dominican Republic is observing a 2000 agreement with Haiti to avoid deportations at night and on weekends.

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