GEORGETOWN, Guyana: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has called on the Dominican Republic to halt the deportation of Dominicans of Haitian descent and avoid creating a humanitarian crisis in the region.
“The Community calls on the Dominican Republic authorities to adhere to the above principles and confirm the citizenship status of Dominicans of Haitian descent,” it said in a statement last week. “The Community also calls on the Dominican Republic not to engage in the expulsion of Dominicans of Haitian descent.”
Tens of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents have been left “stateless” as a result of a 2013 ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court, which had been made retroactive to 1929, revoking their nationality.
The government recently launched a program offering legal residency to Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, but the deadline for applications ended two weeks ago with thousands still unable to register. The government has indicated it will begin deporting those whose citizenship has not been regularized.
Concerned by the threat of the expulsion of these Dominicans, CARICOM said it initiated a discussion on the issue during the recent European Union-CARIFORUM High-Level Meeting in Brussels.
“The meeting was informed of the plight of the Dominicans of Haitian descent rendered stateless, both those who were documented and those who were not,” CARICOM said in a statement. “As highlighted in the Joint Communique of the High-Level Meeting, there was commitment to adhere to a number of principles including ‘protection of the status of citizenship and the presumption that persons shall not be rendered stateless’.”
The Dominican Republic’s decision has been criticized throughout the region.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, says refusing citizenship to people in the Dominican Republic and subjecting them to deportation is a “stain” on Caribbean civilization.
“What is happening in the Dominican Republic is simply unacceptable,” he said. “It is unacceptable to have a public policy in relation to citizenship, grounded in ethnicity or your national origins.”
St. Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris, has condemned the decision.
“The denial of citizenship to persons born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent would be a breach of international law,” he said. “International law would require that they be considered citizens in the land of their birth. Any effort to deport them would be in our view, a violation of international law and best practices.”
In Trinidad, one of the opposition parties, the Congress of the People (COP), issued a statement condemning the Dominican Republic’s stance.
“The mass deportation of persons who have lived, worked and owned property in that country of their birth not only deprives them of their rights, but, will also worsen the humanitarian situation in Haiti,” said COP leader, Prakash Ramadhar.
“We must all do our part to maintain the pressure on the government of the Dominican Republic to permanently halt the threatened deportation. As a Caribbean nation, we must join with our CARICOM and international neighbours to demand that the Dominican Republic’s government take all political, legislative and other measures to restore the citizenship rights of these Dominicans.”
Raise Your Voice, a St. Lucia based organization, said it was particularly concerned about the plight of women and children who would become “stateless”.
It said the move would disenfranchise more than 200,000 Haitians who were born in the Dominican Republic and many more who have lived there for decades.
“This situation will escalate an already dire humanitarian crisis that has existed in Haiti and was exacerbated after the earthquake of 2010,” it said. “We should be mindful that in a refugee crisis children and women are always at risk of being sexually violated, abused, victimized and mistreated.”