Dominican Republic: the problem of denationalization and statelessness

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The Dominican authorities have adopted a series of practices, norms and judicial decisions aimed at denationalizing Haitians and their descendants

Dominican Republic: the problem of denationalization and statelessness

The immigration of people of Haitian nationality to the Dominican Republic has a long and complex historical trajectory. The high number of Haitian immigrants has been derived basically from the contrasts in the levels of development between the two countries, high birth rates, high unemployment rates, violence, political instability, economic chaos, and even natural disasters in Haiti have caused great emigration of its population.

Leer en español: República Dominicana: el problema de la desnacionalización y la apatridia

With the sole objective of finding a job and a stable settlement, a large population of Haitians arrives in the Dominican Republic every year. This migration phenomenon has provided the host country with labor that has been an integral part of the growth of the Dominican economy for decades. For this reason, over the years it has accepted thousands of Haitian migrants, usually as temporary agricultural laborers, especially in the sugar plantations.

However, the majority of the Haitian migrant population does not have a regular migratory status, due to multiple factors among which stand out:

1) The porosity of the border

2) Changes in the system of state regulation of labor migration

3) Lack of opportunities to migrate through official channels

4) The restrictions on the number of foreign workers that can be legally hired

5) The constant demand for cheap Haitian labor.

As of 2004, this group of migrants has faced a great wave of legislative changes and administrative policies that have effectively stripped them of Dominican nationality and permanently excluded them from the economic, social and cultural life of the only country that they have known.

One of the most influential legislative measures in this problem is Sentence 168 of the year 2013, in which it is stated that "any person born after 1929 of foreign parents who could not prove the status of irregular immigrant was improperly registered". This has led to a number of collective expulsions to Haiti, where most of these deportees are not recognized as nationals because they do not have direct Haitian descent, which makes them stateless.

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This, in addition to constituting a violation of the right to nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent, leads to multiple violations of their civil, political, social and economic rights. For this reason, children of Haitian descent are confronted daily with bureaucratic obstacles to continue with their basic education and young people can not access university education. Additionally, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), this population can not access a good quality health service, a decent job; they can not marry or divorce; they can not open or use a bank account; they can not vote or run for public office; they can not make contracts; they can not register the birth of a child or obtain travel documents such as a passport, therefore, they can not travel outside the country.

Likewise, in the World Report of the year 2019 prepared by Human Rights Watch, it is assured that there is statelessness in Dominicans of Haitian descent and questions the migratory policies of the Dominican Republic stating that:

"At least 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants who work in the Dominican Republic returned to Haiti between June 2015 and March 2018, after the Dominican authorities began deportations in accordance with a controversial 2015 Plan for Regularization of Foreigners in the Dominican Republic".

Additionally, it estimates that, after completing the Plan in August 2018, more than 200,000 Haitians who remain in the Dominican Republic are without valid documents, which exposes them to deportation.

All this has caused people in a stateless state in the Dominican Republic to be totally forgotten by the State at this time, so some of them have founded organizations to claim their rights. However, the Dominican government has ignored them.

Roudy Joseph, general coordinator of the Community of Haitians Organized in the DR and Evens Virgile, general coordinator of Haitians in the DR, in an interview in March 2019 for the Dominican television channel, Acento TV, expressed their concern for the growing practices of xenophobia and promotion of hatred against the Haitian population and their descendants. These come from the media –including social networks– and the Dominican population, as well as the passivity of the Dominican government in the face of such attacks.

In the same way, they classified these practices as a serious violation of human rights, derived from discrimination and incitement to racial hatred or national origin, which totally violates laws and international treaties that the Dominican State has signed.

Despite the calls of different organizations such as the IACHR and UNHCR to the Dominican State, this problem has not been solved. This shows how this migrant population is condemned to live in a kind of legal limbo where the claim and respect of their human rights is compromised by the fact that they do not belong to a State. This is due to the inadequate behavior of the Dominican government, which arbitrarily deprives people who are migrants and others who were born in its territory.


LatinAmerican Post | Maria Alejandra Triviño

Translated from "República Dominicana: el problema de la desnacionalización y la apatridia"

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