Amnesty International urged the Dominican Republic on Friday to halt what it called "mass" deportations of Haitian immigrants in a bid to prevent the spread of cholera from neighboring Haiti.
The London-based rights group said more than 950 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic without documentation, some having moved there after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, were sent home over the past week amid tightened immigration controls of Haitian immigrants.
"No one should be deported without individual determination of their immigration status, and any Haitian suspected of cholera should be given adequate medical treatment, not be deported," Javier Zuniga, a Senior Advisor at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
More than 3,400 people in Haiti have died so far and tens of thousands have fallen ill in an epidemic of cholera which has, since mid-October, swept through the impoverished Caribbean nation, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
Some 150 cholera cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic, one of the biggest economies in the Caribbean, which borders Haiti and occupies the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola.
Around a million Haitians live and work in the wealthier Dominican Republic, mostly as laborers and many without proper documentation.
Worried that cholera, which is trasmitted by contaminated water and food, may be transported across the border, Dominican authorities have stepped up military checkpoints around the country where Haitians' travel documents are being inspected.
Sigfrido Pared Perez, director of Dominican Republic's Department of Migration, said the government was facing a sharp increase in immigration from Haiti.
"These are not repatriations. These are Haitians who have been detained at the time they illegally entered the country," he said.
After the earthquake that killed around a quarter of a million people in Haiti, the Dominican government initially suspended deportations of Haitians left homeless by the quake who had illegally immigrated.
Dominican officials say more than 200,000 Haitians entered the country after the quake.
Cholera broke out in a zone not affected by the quake, although it now affects the whole country. Aid workers say they have prevented massive outbreaks in the quake survivors camps in the capital.
Amnesty's Zuniga said the immigration status of many Haitians is unclear, particularly since hundreds of thousands were already living in Dominican Republic without documents before the quake.
"Returning people is condemning them to a situation where their health and security would be at great risk," he said.