How to deal with the Dominican Republic

How to deal with the Dominican Republic

Monday, June 22, 2015

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The Government of the Dominican Republic, we see, is dead set on creating a humanitarian disaster with the deportation to Haiti of hundreds of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants.

Based on news reports, the deportations are scheduled to begin this week despite international outrage at what many regard as a policy grounded in racism.

Just to refresh readers' memories, in 2010 legislators in the Dominican Republic amended the constitution to limit citizenship to descendants of legal immigrants.

Then, in September 2013 a Constitutional Court applied the change to the year 1929.

The upshot is that more than 200,000 people who were either born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrants, or who had moved there many years ago, have now been rendered stateless.

We have, in this space, repeatedly condemned the Dominican Republic for this despicable decision, and we have urged Santo Domingo to implement recommendations made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to resolve the matter.

Those recommendations include:

* the restoration of nationality to all persons who had Dominican Republic nationality in the period from 1929 to 2010, and who may have lost it as a result of the Constitutional Court's decision;

* that persons with the right to Dominican Republic nationality should not be required to register as foreigners in order to have their rights recognised; and

* that measures and mechanisms to guarantee the right of nationality to persons harmed by the Court's judgement should be general, automatic, simple, clear, fair, non-discretionary, non-discriminatory, and must be financially accessible.

The IACHR made the recommendations after a probe found that the Dominican Republic discriminates against citizens of Haitian descent.

That, of course, infuriated the Government, which labelled the finding "unacceptable" and "biased", and in retaliation withdrew as a member of the IACHR.

We were a bit surprised at the initial feeble response of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to the developments, as what emerged from the regional grouping was a statement of "concern".

Since then, Caricom has suspended talks with Santo Domingo on its application for membership in the 15-member grouping, and we are now finally hearing the Jamaican Government speak on this issue.

According to Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator AJ Nicholson, Jamaica will not support any move for the Dominican Republic to join Caricom if that country's attempt to denationalise hundreds of thousands of its own people is not appropriately resolved.

More recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has spoken out on the issue, pointing out that the consequences of expulsion could be devastating.

We reiterate that CARIFORUM should undertake a serious review of the Dominican Republic's membership with a view to suspension, and, if necessary, expulsion, if the country insists on this most egregious policy.

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