Dom Rep court ruling strips thousands of citizenship

Friday, September 27, 2013

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — The Dominican Republic's top court yesterday stripped citizenship from thousands of people born to illegal migrants, a category that overwhelmingly includes Haitians brought from their neighbouring homeland to work on farms.


The decision cannot be appealed, and it affects all those born since 1929.


The Constitutional Court's ruling says officials are studying birth certificates of more than 16,000 people and notes that electoral authorities have refused to issue identity documents to 40,000 people of Haitian descent.


The decision, which gives the electoral commission a year to produce a list of those to be excluded, is a blow to activists who have tried to block what they call "denationalisation" of many residents.


"This is outrageous," said Ana Maria Belique, spokeswoman for a non-profit group that has fought for the rights of migrants' children. "It's an injustice based on prejudice and xenophobia."


The court ruled that all Haitian migrants who came to the Dominican Republic to work in sugar-cane fields after 1929 were in transit, and thus their children are not automatically entitled to Dominican citizenship just because they were born here.


The Economy Ministry recently calculated that some 500,000 migrants born in Haiti now live in the Dominican Republic, but it gave no estimate for the number of people of Haitian descent living in the country. The Dominican Republic's total population is a little over 10 million.


David Abraham, a law professor at the University of Miami, said the decision is part of a larger effort to block Haitians from entering the Dominican Republic and to encourage self-deportation.


"The fear of the Dominican Republic of being pulled down to the level of Haiti, economically, and the blackening of the country, has been an obsession of Dominican politicians for well over a century," he said.


Those affected by the ruling are basically left in limbo because a 2004 law that would have addressed the status of those born to migrants living illegally in the Dominican Republic was never applied.


Belique and others said they would likely seek help from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in turn might submit the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


Jorge Duany, an anthropology professor at Florida International University who has studied the migration of Dominicans in the Caribbean, said the decision comes after countless years of friction between the two countries, which share the island of Hispaniola.


"The impact could be truly catastrophic," he said. "They are stigmatising an entire Haitian population."



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