Tuesday, October 1, 2013

U.N. “Concerned” over Controversial Dominican Citizenship Ruling

The United Nations (UN) is “extremely concerned” over a recent Dominican court decision that could strip the citizenship of thousands of citizens with a Haitian background.

“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,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Monday.

Shamdasani added that last week’s court decision could lead to “disastrous” implications for people of Haitian descent residing in the Dominican Republic.  Among the potential consequences are leaving tens of thousands of people stateless and without access to basic services.

Meanwhile, U.N. resident commissioner Lorenzo Jimenez said yesterday that the UN will conduct an "exhaustive study" to see if the court’s ruling violates international agreements. He also mentioned that the findings of such a study would be presented several weeks from now.

The decision, which was handed down on September 25th, was based on Article 11 of the Dominican Constitution that was ratified in 2010 and exempts children of diplomats and people in transit from becoming citizens if they were born on Dominican soil.  The high court judges concluded that migrants who came to work in the Dominican Republic after 1929 were “in transit”; hence, voiding automatic citizenship to their descendants.

Haiti recalled its Ambassador to the Dominican Republic yesterday in response to the measure that could reignite diplomatic tensions between the countries that share the island of Hispaniola. 

The ruling could also lead to the mass deportations of some of the estimated 500,000 migrants born in Haiti now live in the Dominican Republic.  (Approximately 47,700 undocumented Haitian migrants were deported from the Dominican Republic between August 2012 and September 2013 as part of a government crackdown).

The possibility of becoming denationalized has worried some of the thousands of Dominicans citizens with a Haitian background:

"To all of a sudden be told no, you're not Dominican, it's very frustrating," said Elmo Bida Joseph, a 21-year-old student who said he was denied his ID and a copy of his birth certificate because he was born to Haitian migrants.

"All my dreams have been broken," said Bida, a baseball player who needed those documents to enroll in a baseball academy.

Now he worries he'll be deported.

"I feel that's around the corner. That in any moment I'll be detained and they'll send me to Haiti," he said.
The Dominican court’s decision comes on the eve of the 76th anniversary of one of the darkest events in the often-tense history between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  An estimated 20,000 Haitians were killed in the “Parsley Massacre” of October 1937 that took place under the orders of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Video Source– YouTube via user UNECOSOC

Online Sources – UN News Centre; rappler.com; New Zealand Herald; Caribbean Journal; Huffington Post; NPR

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