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Joint commission discusses Haiti/Dom Rep citizenship issue

Wednesday, January 08, 2014    

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — A high-level commission established to look into the citizenship issue of thousands of Haitian nationals rendered stateless by a Constitutional Court ruling in the Dominican Republic in September last year, was scheduled due to meet yesterday.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who is leading the local delegation to the talks with the Dominican Republic in the Haitian northern town of Ouanaminthe near the Haitian-Dominican border, said the issue should be solved through dialogue.

"We want to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Dominican Republic to find a solution that protects the interests of all parties," Lamothe told the Haitian website, HCNN.

Last month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, reporting on a meeting between President Michel Martelly and his Dominican Republic counterpart, Danilo Medina, said that the high-level committee with representatives of both sides would address various issues. Maduro said the joint commission would comprise five representatives each from the two countries and that Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) had been invited as observers.

Maduro said the proposed commission would address issues regarding trade, migration, environment, security and the border. The purpose of such an initiative is to find a just, proper and balanced solution through which the interests and rights of all parties are protected.

On September 23, 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.

But in defending the ruling, Dominican Republic officials said it ends uncertainty for children of Haitian immigrants, allowing them to apply for residency and eventually for citizenship.

The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on authorities in Santo Domingo to ensure that the ruling did not leave persons of Haitian descent in "constitutional limbo".

A United Nations-supported study, released this year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

However, the Government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to Medina on the issue, had informed his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) colleagues that quiet diplomacy would not get the Dominican Republic to change its position.

Last November, Caricom said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping following the Constitutional Court ruling.

Last week, President Martelly said his administration was committed to having dialogue with the Dominican Republic and denied that the two countries which share the Hispaniola island were engaged in any conflict.

"Now there is a dialogue which has been established between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, because there are a lot of problems to solve, among them, the denationalisation issue," said Martelly. He added that the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal took a decision that hampers humanity because it has to do with human rights.

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