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Migration & Refugees

CARICOM Chastises Dominican Republic over Deportations

At the bustling border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Credit: Dan Boarder/cc by 2.0

PORT OF SPAIN, Nov 27 2013 (IPS) - Outraged at a court ruling that would potentially render stateless thousands of Dominican people of Haitian descent, the Caribbean Community on Tuesday suspended the Dominican Republic’s bid to join the 15-member regional grouping.

Dominican President Danilo Medina had reportedly promised that his government would not actually deport any of the persons affected by the Sep. 23 ruling.

“It renders an already marginalised section of the Dominican population even more vulnerable to acts of daily discrimination and abuse." -- Prof. Norman Girvan

However, Michel Martelly, Haiti’s president, said that soon after returning from Venezuela last weekend where he held talks with Dominican officials to resolve the issue, the authorities in Santo Domingo deported 300 people “who do not know the country, who do not have family in Haiti and who do not even speak the language.”

Martelly is threatening to stay away from future talks – the next round is scheduled for next week – if the Dominican Republic does not show some form of goodwill.

“We don’t have to keep meeting without them showing some action,” he told IPS, adding that the deportees included children, some “as old as one day”.

Trinidadian Prime Minister and CARICOM chair Kamla Persad-Bissessar vowed to raise the matter with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). A delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is also visiting the Dominican Republic early next month.

“It is especially repugnant that the ruling ignores the 2005 recommendations made by the IACHR that the Dominican Republic adapts its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights,” she said. “The ruling also violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to President Medina on the issue, said he was also prepared to push for the suspension of the Dominican Republic from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM).

He told IPS that “quiet diplomacy” has led nowhere and “clearly we have to up the ante for the government and the relevant authority to act”.

At the heart of the controversy is the stripping of citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

CARICOM had come under increasing pressure from civil society groups in the region to respond strongly. Caribbean organisations that met in Colombia last week condemned the ruling as “immoral, unjust and totally unacceptable”.

“It renders an already marginalised section of the Dominican population even more vulnerable to acts of daily discrimination and abuse based on the colour of their skin and/or the sound of their names,” former ACS secretary general Professor Norman Girvan told IPS.

Caricom has an opportunity to “prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

But efforts to pressure the Dominican Republic to soften the ruling – only the latest salvo in decades of cultural and economic tensions between the two nations – will likely prove an uphill task.

Earlier this month, Anibal De Castro, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United Sates, responding to an article published in a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper, made it clear that his country “does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction.”

“In fact, the United States is one of the few nations that maintain this practice. In most countries, it is the norm that citizenship be obtained by origin or conferred under certain conditions. Since 1929, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic has established that the children of people in transit, a temporary legal status, are not eligible for Dominican citizenship,” he wrote.

On Nov. 6, hundreds of people rallied in Santo Domingo in support of the ruling, even suggesting the erection of a wall to ensure the division of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Emilo Santana of the group Night Watch of San Juan claimed that many Dominicans were unable to receive health services because the resources were being used to assist Haitians and urged President Medina to prevent a “silent and massive Haitian take-over of the territory.”

“I feel humiliated and angry, but not by my president, I feel humiliated by those NGOs that negotiate with the poverty of Haitians and it is they who are destroying our country,” Santana said at the rally.

Another speaker, jurist Juan Manuel Castillo Pantaleon, said the Constitutional Court “has aroused all Dominicans to defend as one man our national sovereignty”.

He described the ruling as a landmark “because it clearly defines who we Dominicans are and reaffirms the laws and institutions, as provided in the Constitution.

“The hypocritical international community which offered aid to Haiti never kept their promises and in some cases committed robbery, and intends that we Dominicans should assume responsibility for a failed state,” said Castillo Pantaleon.

A United Nations-supported study released this year estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

The government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

In a statement, CARICOM said it was calling on the global community to pressure the Dominican Republic to “adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the Constitutional Court does not stand”.

“The government must show good faith by immediate credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve the nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time.”

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  • Nasira Miller

    All Black people should leave the Dominican Republic and not look back.Haiti should deny them the use of Labadi and all of the other beautiful resources they “share” on the Haitian side of the island.

  • Frances roberts

    Remember there are Dominicans who are black as well….I live here and there are black Dominicans in full support of this ruling…..I find it heinous and brings to light just how much deep rooted issues these two countries have

  • veras

    article is totally bias if you travel to the Island you will see Haitian’s in the corner with no papers at all selling there goods and merchandise. the only country in the world you would see this. i can tell you there are racist people here just like you will find in America,England,Brazil etc.

  • Veras

    Caricom is a joke while Jamaica and Haiti are members there are not able to travel freely to these countries.

  • elConsciente

    Caricom is using the Haitian issue as an excuse to deny DR products from entering Caricom countries duty free; immigration policies of a sovereign nation should not enter trade negotiations. That said, As an American of Dominican descent I am appalled that the DR constitutional court has decided to enforce a law that came into place in 1929. Clearly the DR is a failed corrupt state incapable of controlling it’s border so why decide to apply the law retroactively? Yes it’s partially racism, Dominicans of all colors (whites, mulattoes, blacks, native Indians & mixed folks) have been brainwashed that black is ugly and white is beautiful by our colonial European “mother land” Spain, but that’s just part of the story. Dominicans, majority mixed, are not the only peoples in the caribbean with this issue, so let’s move on to the real problem.

    The truth is that the DR is an extremely impoverished country that cannot handle the massive flow of migrants from across the border. Think the US-Mexico border on crack, that’s how things play out in the DR, a country without efficient health, education, policing or legal institutions to name a few. How can the international community expect the DR to accept all Haitians when the world’s super power, the U.S. deports Haitians when they land on boats in Miami?

  • elConsciente

    The Bahamas just recently deported Haitians too, and I’m pretty sure Caricom countries have done the same. The DR was the first responder to the earthquake and I truly believe will always be there for it’s neighbor as Haiti would be for DR.

    To solve the issue the Dominican congress should pass a law granting amnesty to all Haitians facing deportation and implement a state of the art border patrol system and immigration system, hopefully with the help and money of the world powers that are condemning the enforcement of the law, not to keep Haitians out but to control and regulate the border as it is done by the European Union, U.S. and other sovereign countries- putting an end to the constant racist and genocide accusations against the DR.

    Cause honestly Haitians and Dominicans live and work side-by-side across the country. I have met many in the DR who were tourists, employees in resorts, hotels, restaurants, workers in the countryside, residents and etc., all completely a part of Dominican society. Obviously things are not perfect but the same can be said for the U.S. CARICOM should put itself in the shoes of the D.R. before using trade as leverage. Haitians go to D.R. for jobs, more trade through CARICOM will not only bring more employment opportunities to Dominicans but to Haitians who cross the border!

  • Marc

    When other countries such as Brazil, the Bahamas and the U.S. deport Haitians no one says anything, there is no scandal yet when D.R. tries to implement policies or enforce policies already in place to protect it borders then we are racist and xenophobic against Haitians that does not seem very fair.

    The Dominican Republic is a poor country itself and up to 1960 both Haiti and the D.R had the same GDP. D.R. might be a little bit better off now but it is far from where it needs to be.

    Do your research before you blame D.R. for Haiti’s problems.

    I firmly believe that Haiti’s problem are do to their corrupt government, presence of NGO’s in the country (which seem to never help at all), the U.S. invasion of Haiti, and the payments Haiti had to provide the French for it’s recognition as an independent country.

    That being said I will never condone the mistreatment of Haitians in D.R. or anywhere, people should all be treated as human beings. But D.R. can not be blamed and fix the issues going in Haiti.

    D.R. has never invaded Haiti, they did not impose taxes on Haitians the way Haitians did to Dominicans. Please do not state that they invaded simply to unify the island because that is not true, it’s not like they just came in wanting to hold hands and we said no( amongst other accusations Dominicans simply did not want to pay the taxes that were imposed on them by Haiti) Haiti sought to use D.R. in oder to pay reparations imposed by the french for recognition of the newly independent country. D.R. had the right to free itself and become independent which it did multiple times from Spanish rule and from Haitian Rule

    There is an extreme issue of deforestation, poverty, corruption, overpopulation and cholera introduced by the U.N. on the Haitian side of the island a problem Dominicans can not fix.

    What a recipe for disaster

  • Marc

    Ionically No one NO one does more for Haiti than DOMINICANS
    The D.R never invaded Haiti, The D.R. never imposed taxes on Haiti

    The real racism or campaign is against the D.R. not the other way around

    THE UN introduced cholera to Haiti
    France made Haiti Pay Reparations just to recognize it as an independent nation 150 million francs (21 billion today)
    The U.S. invaded/occupied the country and left it worse off than it already was

    We fought Spanish Rule and Haitian Occupation
    Do your research before you talk about the D.R.

    No other country in the world has over 10% of its population’s worth in illegal Haitian immigrants, 80% of its agricultural and construction workers from Haiti, over 12% of hospital patients that are Haitian, and illegal Haitians attending their public schools. No other country spends MORE THAN IT CAN AFFORD with proportion to its GDP on direct and indirect aid to Haiti and Haitian nationals. To top it all off, over 80% of Dominicans are black or mullato (which in America means the same as black).

    SO… the Haitian-Dominican problem is a matter of ECONOMIC HARDSHIP being imposed in the DR (a poor state) to provide for Haiti. Before you judge Dominicans over a complex problem you know NOTHING about, answer this question: What have YOU done for Haiti? The International community should seek to strengthen Haiti’s institutions so that it can stop being a failed state and provide basic human conditions for its citizens, so Haitians don’t have to FLEE to the DR for relief from what are INHUMANE conditions. The DR cannot do this for Haiti, not because it does not want to, but because progress, just like failure, is a determination every country must take for itself. And most importantly, because the Dominican Republic’s first responsibility is to its own impoverished citizens, who ALSO HAVE the right to live and to prosper in a land their ancestors fought hard to maintain.

  • 3kingsDC aka Roberto

    I have kept myself on the sideline of the controversy regarding the Dominico-Haitian problem. This is because I have people, relatives rather, very dear to me, who are of Haitian descend and how can we forget the human side of the situation.

    Some within the controversy point that there is “anti-haitianism” in Dominican Republic, others that it is racism, but what they do not stop to analyze, is that it has nothing to do with race, or that they are Haitians, but it has everything to do with being properly documented to live in a country.

    No matter what country you live, if you are not properly documented you run the risk of being deported, whether in USA, Europe, Australia, everywhere in the world. Moreover people lose sight of the national security problem it can become, if a person or in this case a group of people who are not properly documented are inside a state or country, it can lend itself for criminal and terrorist acts, as many immigration analysts point out when speaking of the Mexican undocumented migration to the US problem, or when in some European countries the police forces out undocumented immigrants that live under bridges, or out of their homes to process them for deportation, as is the case between France and Spain.

    How do I stay out of the ring, when I hear and read that Dominicans are racist, referring to the Dominican-Haitian migration problem. Have they not seen or felt our pride for being mestizos and mulattos, that the Indian and the black run in our veins and behind our ears?

    Many say, on both sides, that it has something to do with our liberation as a people, our independence from the French and the Haitians, then I ask you, were you there to offend or be offended by an act that you did not commit or was committed against you? I do not think so!

    Where Indignation gets me is when I see people, community leaders and political leaders, taking positions on an issue which they do not understand nor have complete knowledge about, then it becomes an irresponsible criminal tort on the part of the leader or politician against his community.

    “The irresponsibility of fighting for a cause uninformed, is a criminal act when it comes from a community or political leader”

    My question is: How can a person or political leader stir a fire which he/she has not the slightest idea how, or why it lit? It seems that many have not receive the news that Haitian President Martelly declared Apatridas Haitians who are not properly documented.

    Yes, there is a human factor to the situation, and the human right to aspire for a better life for you and your children, as we as immigrants have done in the USA, but properly documented, even if we arrived undocumented the first goal is “papers” or “Papeles” as we call it, especially when the opportunity to regularize your status is given to you, as was the case in Dominican Republic.

    Let’s better focus on the sovereignty of each country to enforce its own immigration laws, and what their individual constitutions says about the subject matter of the countries involved in the controversy. Or is it that your neighbor can make rules in your home? I didn’t think so!!!

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