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UNHCR urges Dominican Republic to reverse Constitutional Court ruling

Saturday, December 07, 2013 | 9:10 AM    

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UNITED NATIONS (CMC) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is urging the Dominican Republic to rapidly restore the nationality of people who have been affected by the recent Constitutional Court ruling rendering thousands of people stateless.

UNHCR, which mounted a mission to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country this week, said that it was “deeply concerned that two months after the ruling, the situation of stateless population has not yet been adequately addressed by the authorities”.

Moreover, UNHCR noted that the Dominican Republic Government announced its intention this week to submit to its Congress a bill allowing the affected population to apply for naturalisation, “which will make those already considered citizens apply for naturalisation”.

The September 23 ruling of the Constitutional Court introduced new criteria for acquisition of Dominican nationality with regard to children of irregular migrants born in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.

Retroactively to 1929, the new criteria indicated that several generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent, including those officially registered as Dominican Republic citizens at birth, no longer meet the standard for Dominican Republic nationality.

UNHCR stressed that those affected by the judgement are not migrants and that they have deep roots in the country.

The agency also urged the government to “take immediate action to resolve this human rights problem”.

UNHCR said that by virtue of being stateless,”a person can be denied many of the rights and privileges taken for granted as a national of a country, including the right to vote, the right to travel outside of one's country and even the right to access basic services”.

Late last month, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) deferred the Dominican Republic’s application for membership of the regional body over the country’s Constitutional Court ruling.

CARICOM made the decision at a Bureau meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, comprising current chairperson Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Persad Bissessar; her St Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr Ralph Gonsalves; and the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly.  CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque also attended the meeting.

“In the circumstances and in the light of the values and the principles, which have been underpinned in the revised treaty of Chaguaramas, Caricom has determined that it will defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic for membership of Caricom,” said Persad-Bissessar afterwards.

Caricom also called on the global and regional community to “pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the constitutional court does not stand and that the full citizenship rights of persons of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic are guaranteed”.

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