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DomRep ruling could have ‘devastating impact’ on thousands of children of Haitian descent, UNICEF says

Thursday, October 10, 2013 | 9:18 AM    

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UNITED NATIONS (CMC) – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that a ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic depriving Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent of their right to citizenship could have a “devastating impact” on thousands of children.

“Without a nationality, stateless children can be denied access to basic social protection programmes, cannot earn education certificates or graduate, or obtain an identity card or a passport,” said UNICEF in a statement on Wednesday.

“Without these basic protections and opportunities, these children are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” it added.

UNICEF said the decision contradicts numerous court decisions and treaties to which the Dominican Republic is party, and contravenes basic principles of human rights.

“A 2005 judgment by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the issue of nationality in the Dominican Republic and the recommendations made by the UN Treaty-based bodies and the Human Rights Council clearly set out that cases involving the violations of children’s rights are particularly serious.

The Dominican Republic is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (2001), which clearly articulates that in all state actions concerning children, the best interest of the child must be the primary consideration,” it said.

UNICEF noted that, in 2008, in the concluding observations for the Dominican Republic, the Committee on the Rights of the Child said that the constitutional right of acquiring nationality by jus solis (the right to a nationality or citizenship given because one is born in the territory of the state in question) was “frequently denied to children who did not have regular birth certificates or were born to parents whose residency had not been regularised in the Dominican Republic.”

The Committee expressed serious concern at the large numbers of stateless children generated by this policy.

“The provisions of the new ruling could place these children at risk of deportation, in violation of the principles articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly articles 12 and 15,” UNICEF said.

It, therefore, urges the Dominican Government to adopt, with the support of the United Nations system, a procedure to protect every child’s right to acquire a nationality, in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.

“UNICEF stands ready to support the Dominican Republic authorities with the identification and implementation of procedures that would fully respect children’s rights,” the statement said.

Last week, the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo, ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants.

The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

The development, according to international observers, could cause a human rights crisis, while leaving tens of thousands of people stateless and facing mass deportation and discrimination.

Former Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson has urged the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to “strongly condemn recent developments in the Dominican Republic that could render stateless, thousands of persons of Haitian descent.

“No one can be hood-winked as to the reason and the purpose for this kind of discriminatory legislation. Within the region we have an obligation to speak and we cannot allow such inequities to go without our strongest condemnations,” Patterson told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

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