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Study finds Haitian children barred from school in Dominican Republic

Saturday, April 12, 2014 | 2:35 PM    

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A study undertaken by the Human Rights institute at Georgetown University Law Centre in the United States has found that children of Haitian nationals born in the Dominican Republic are increasingly being barred from attending school in the Spanish–speaking Caribbean country.

The report on the study was released on Friday and shows that ever since the Constitutional Court ruling last September that rendered thousands of Haitian nationals stateless, the children were being barred from attending schools.

The study found that many parents have complained that their children are being turned away due to arbitrary interpretations of the court ruling and as a result many were either dropping out of schools or forced into underage labour.

One of the authors of the study, Kimberly Fetsick said that the children were being harmed and their human rights violated.

The report which analysed one of the impacts of the court ruling found that many of the children have had their basic identification documents seized by government officials despite having been born in the Dominican Republic.

As a result, the study noted that while the Dominican constitution grants everyone a right to education, including children without documentation, many school officials were requiring proof of Dominican citizenship upon enrolment or prior to national exams.

"Much of a child's fate may depend on the kindness of individual teachers and school administrators who are willing to overlook missing documents or actively help children obtain them," the report stated.

The Ministry of Education has indicated that as many as 48,000 children who lack identification documents are enrolled in primary schools.

Earlier this week, the UN Refugee Agency said it hoped there would be a solution to the court ruling as soon as possible.

"The consequences of statelessness are dramatically real for individuals affected by the ruling. They are denied access to identification cards, employment and other basic services. They cannot travel, get married legally or register the birth of a child," said Shelly Pitterman, the agency's regional representative.

Last year, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping as a result of the court ruling.

The Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has 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 last year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

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