Many from the international community are condemning the Dominican Republic’s actions to “repatriate” hundreds of thousands of its residents, many of whom are Haitian immigrants. Up until 2010, citizenship was granted to anyone born in the country, but that changed under a 2013 ruling, rendering individuals born in the Dominican Republic to undocumented immigrant parents effectively stripped of citizenship. They, along with the parents that brought them, now face deportation.
According to an El Caribe report, the Dominican government, in response to calls to halt the policy, has committed to send a delegation to Haiti to discuss the deportation of its Haitian residents.
Saint Vincent’s Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, has denounced the Dominican Republic’s decision, telling the Jamaica Observer the new ruling, which many believe unfairly targets Haitian immigrants, is “simply unacceptable.”
“… persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, who, by any international standard, should be citizens of the Dominican Republic, they are denied citizenship and they are denied citizenships on ethnic grounds or grounds of national origins.”
Gonsalves also told reporters, “It is unacceptable to have a public policy in relation to citizenship, grounded in ethnicity or your national origins.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has urged the Dominican Republic not to deport its Haitian immigrant population, whose numbers are estimated to be over 200,000.
The Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, also condemned the decision at a recent news conference, citing the Dominican bureaucracy as part of the problem faced by Dominican Republic’s Haitian immigrants.
“… the timeframe which they gave and the onerous request which they were making of the applicants, make it impossible for the vast majority of those citizens to apply for their citizenship.”
CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, of which Haiti is a member, has also weighed in on behalf of the Dominican Republic’s undocumented Haitian immigrants during the recent European Union-CARIFORUM High-Level meeting. CARICOM also issued a recent statement, re-framing the issue from immigration to a humanitarian crisis.
“The Community also calls on the Dominican Republic not to engage in the expulsion of Dominicans of Haitian descent and avoid creating a humanitarian crisis in our region.”
Eugene, who recently held a press conference in Manhattan, also sees it a human rights issue.
“This human rights issue will impact not just the individuals facing deportation but our entire society.”
The seven-day-old petition has garnered fifty supporters.
Among calls to halt the policy, which many label the “ethnic cleansing” of Haitians, the action caused a reaction in the streets in the form of protests in the Nation’s Capital and rallies outside the Dominican Republic Embassy in D.C. Many more are scheduled to take place in cities with significant Haitian populations, like New York and Miami. Haitian-born economist Emmanuel Bellegarde told the Washington Post, “This is a polarizing issue that pits hardworking Dominicans against hardworking Dominican Haitians.”
The underlying fear is for the long-established Haitian residents who have little or no connection to Haiti. If nothing is done to help resettle them, Dominican Republic’s mass deportation can have grave consequences on the already-struggling Haitian community.
[Photo Credit: Toni L. Sandys / Washington Post]