PM Gonsalves reiterates opposition to Dominican Republic policy

Monday, June 22, 2015

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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) – Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has described as “simply unacceptable” the decision of the Dominican Republic to implement a policy that denies citizenship to person of Haitian descent born in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.
“…persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, who, by any international standard, should be citizens of the Dominican Republic, they are denied citizenship and they are denied citizenships on ethnic grounds or grounds of national origins,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who has returned here from attending a meeting Brussels, said he is opposed to the policy that allows for the deportation of people by the Dominican Republic, saying it is a “stain” and “antithetical” to the further ennoblement of the Caribbean civilization.
Last week, the United Nations refugee agency urged the Dominica Republic to ensure that Haitians and Haitian descendants whose citizenship was thrown into question by a 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court will not be deported.
“The court’s ruling and the subsequent regularisation plan which gave individuals born in the Dominican Republic until mid-June to regularize their status, impacts tens of thousands of people,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Most of them were born in the Dominican Republic and are of Haitian descent. With a stateless population in the Dominican Republic estimated at more than 200,000 people, the consequences of expulsion could be devastating,” he said.
The Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic had ruled that when the Dominican Republic joined the IACHR in 1999, it had done so without respecting its own constitution.
In October 2013, OHCHR had urged the Dominican Republic to take measures to ensure that citizens of Haitian origin, including children born in the Dominican Republic, were not deprived of their right to nationality in light of the Constitutional Court ruling.
Until 2010, UNHCR said the country had followed the principle of automatically bestowing citizenship to anyone born on its soil.
But, in 2010, a new constitution stated that citizenship would be granted only to those born on Dominican Republic soil to at least one parent of Dominican Republic blood or whose foreign parents are legal residents.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said during the meeting in Brussels consideration had been given for benchmark standards to be set up and for a monitoring mechanism to be put in place for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union and the Dominican Republic to monitor the progress.
“Because what is happening in the Dominican Republic is simply unacceptable,” he said, reiterating his strong position to the situation unfolding in the Dominican Republic.
 “A lot of people ask me, ‘Why are you, Ralph, so strong on this matter?’ I say, ‘I am strong on this in the same way that I was strong on other things’,” he said, making reference to his positions on reparation for native genocide and slavery.
“It is unacceptable to have a public policy in relation to citizenship, grounded in ethnicity or your national origins,” Gonsalves said.
But Prime Minister Gonsalves says he belives the Dominican Republic is seeking help in dealing with the matter.
 “But we can’t help on your terms. We have to help in a manner which advances the rightness of the cause. I appreciate some of their difficulties and challenges … but I have to deal with the principle and let us see how we can manage in going forward in solving the issue practically.”
Gonsalves also rejected what he said was the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, whom he quoted as saying that the issue was one of sovereignty for Santo Domingo to resolve.
“And I told him he has a notion of sovereignty which has stood still in 1648 in the Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the 30 years war when there was a pristine sovereignty.
“The question of sovereignty has evolved in theory and in practice and in the 21st century, the fact that you are sitting down with us from CARICOM and the European Union discussing his business is a sign that the sovereignty is not pristine. If the sovereignty was pristine, he would have told us go to hell, metaphorically speaking,” Gonsalves said.

 

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