UN urges Dominican Republic to ensure citizens of Haitian origin do not lose nationality

UN urges Dominican Republic to ensure citizens of Haitian origin do not lose nationality

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

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GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC)  — The United Nations human rights office has urged the Dominican Republic to take all necessary measures to ensure that citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality in light of a recent court ruling.

Last week the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the children of undocumented migrants who have been in the Dominican Republic and registered as Dominicans as far back as 1929, cannot have Dominican Republic nationality as their parents are considered to be “in transit”.

“We are extremely concerned that a ruling of the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality, virtually all of them of Haitian descent, and have a very negative impact on their other rights,” said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR).

She said the decision could have “disastrous” implications for people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, leaving them in a state of constitutional limbo and without access to basic services for which identity documents are required.

Until 2010, the UN said the Dominican Republic had followed the principle of automatically bestowing citizenship to anyone born on its soil.

But in 2010, it said a new constitution stated that citizenship would be granted only to those born on Dominican Republic soil to at least one parent of Dominican blood or whose foreign parents are legal residents.

The decision, which cannot be appealed, gives the Central Electoral Board one year to elaborate a list of people to be excluded from citizenship, and it outlines a number of steps leading to the elaboration of a regularization plan for undocumented migrants, OHCHR said.

“We urge the Dominican Government to take all necessary measures to ensure that Dominican citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations,” Shamdasani said.
Meantime, Dominican Republic human rights activists said that they plan to stage demonstrations across the country in coming days to protest the court ruling.

Antonio Pol-Emil, a member of the Dominican-Haitian Cultural Center in Santo Domingo, said “racism permeated” the high court’s decision.

“There are social groups in the Dominican Republic and in politics that work on the issue of immigration and, because of their racist and anti-Haitian beliefs, they hold onto the idea that children of Haitian don’t have a right to citizenship,” he told a news conference called by more than a dozen Dominican civil society groups.

Amid the court’s ruling, Haiti has recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic for consultation, with Foreign Minister Pierre-Richard Casimir describing the ruling as “worrying”.

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 citizenship.

“The ruling unifies the country,” said Roberto Rosario, president of the Central Electoral Board, which is responsible for creating the plan.
“It clarifies and defines a legal way and provides a framework to seek a humanitarian way out for those people,” he added.

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