New Act is ‘woeful solution’, Dominican government continues to deprive hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their right to nationality, says MRG
A new Act in the Dominican Republic will deny citizenship to Haitian descendants, despite some having been in the country for over 80 years. The Act requires unregistered children with Haitian lineage to present documents proving that they were born in the Dominican Republic, and is a woeful solution to the situation of hundreds of thousands of people deprived of their nationality following a Constitutional Court ruling last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG).
‘The Dominican government has deployed yet another obstacle for this community, who were once essential labour to toil in the sugar cane fields, but are now almost forgotten.’ says Sofia Olins, MRG’s Head of Cultural Programmes.
‘President Medina must fulfil his promise to create “a country without exclusion and without discrimination” and take meaningful steps to restore the nationality of all Dominicans of Haitian descent,’ Olins added.
In September 2013, the Constitutional Court issued a judgment depriving all people born to migrant parents or grandparents residing in the Dominican Republic between 1929 and 2007 of their nationality.
Following international pressure, the Dominican Parliament passed a law on citizenship in May 2014 to mitigate some of the effects of the Constitutional Court ruling.
The law divides Dominicans of Haitian descent into two groups. On the one hand, it restores the nationality of those who were registered in the Civil Registry at birth. However it confirms the original Constitutional Court ruling for a second group, the majority of the Dominicans of Haitian descent, who were not registered at birth, effectively forcing them to register as foreigners, and wait an additional period of two years before being able to apply for naturalisation, without guarantee of success. Up to four generations of the community could be affected.
On 23 July2014, President Medina signed an Act which gives that second group of unregistered descendants of Haitians 90 days to present documents proving that they were born in the Dominican Republic. The 90 day period began end of July.
Documents which can be used include proof of birth from a hospital stating the mother’s name and the date of birth, or an affidavit signed by a notary public and by seven qualified Dominican witnesses, indicating place and date of birth, the name of the child and the name of the parents.
‘Applying to be a foreigner in your own country is deeply distressing, and will be a huge expense for people who struggle to meet basic daily needs. Most in this community were either born at home or their mothers were not able to register them officially, so it will be close to impossible for them to get this evidence, especially in such a short timeframe,’ says Olins.
‘If they can’t fulfil all the requirements they will be left stateless, with no access to education, work or healthcare. With no official identity card they can’t even get married or in some cases use public transport,’ she added.
Dominicans of Haitian descent face economic and social marginalisation and discrimination in Dominican society. They number between 650, 000 and one million.
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