WASHINGTON – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States, on Tuesday asked the Dominican Republic to restore nationality to thousands of people of Haitian descent affected by a controversial decision by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal.
“The criteria adopted by the Constitutional Tribunal disproportionally affected persons of Haitian descent and retroactively deprived them of nationality, relegating them to the status of stateless persons,” the commission said.
Based on a visit to the country, the commission’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in Dominican Republic” repudiates that persons born in Dominican territory who, according to Dominican legislation, are entitled to Dominican nationality, should be treated as foreigners.
The commission, an autonomous agency of the OAS, also urges the Dominican government to end “the practices of denying Dominican nationality to persons born in the territory based on the origin of their parents or ancestors, or the migratory status of their parents.”
“The situation of statelessness generated by (Constitutional Tribunal) judgment 168/13 has not yet been completely corrected after the measures adopted by the Dominican State, is of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas,” said the rapporteur on the rights of migrants, Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero.
“This situation takes place in a context of historical discrimination that, in different spheres, face Dominicans of Haitian descent,” said the rapporteur on the rights of Afro-Descendants, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay.
“This historical discrimination has been evident in policies, laws, judgments and practices that tend to deprive them of their right to Dominican nationality on the basis of criteria such as the colour of their skin, the national origin of their parents or grandparents, their last names or their linguistic ability to speak Spanish,” she said.
Many people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents faced immense obstacles when trying to obtain the right documentation to register for the National Regularization Plan and only around 240,000 applications were received ahead of a June 17, 2015, deadline.
In the past, the Dominican government cited unofficial estimates of around 1 million Haitians living in the country, most of them illegal immigrants working in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. While both countries are poor by global standards, Haiti is destitute.