We call on CARICOM governments to defend Caribbean people in the Dominican Republic in the face of this assault on their very lives

Dear Editor

In late September 2013,  the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic made a ruling to deny citizenship to thousands of children, women and men of Haitian origin, many of  whose parents were brought to work in the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry,  and who would have been registered as Dominican. This ruling cannot be appealed in the Dominican Republic; it is final according to that country’s legal system.

There is a long history of racism, xenophobia and violence directed against Haitians in the Dominican Republic which cannot be disassociated from this latest injustice.

This Constitutional Court ruling will affect an estimated 210,000 Dominican-born children, women and men of Haitian descent. According to reports the Government of the Dominican Republic is also examining deportation  as a means of enforcing the ruling, which has in effect stripped citizenship rights of the offspring of Haitian migrants born after 1929.

The vast majority of Haitians who will be affected by the ruling do not have Haitian citizenship, have few or no ties to Haiti and in many cases do not even speak Kreyol, the official language of Haiti.

For Haiti, the most exploited and therefore poorest nation in the Latin American and Caribbean region, dealing with such an influx of  persons will be impossible to manage and will lead to further poverty, homelessness and all the other problems associated with refugees. If thousands are forced back to Haiti, the situation will be all the more life-threatening since Haitians are still struggling to cope with the effects of the earthquake of 2010. As in all disaster and refugee situations, women and children will be the hardest hit.

Right now over 40,000  persons affected by the Constitutional Court ruling in the Dominican Republic have been informed that they will be denied identity documents. Without such documents ability to access schools or healthcare services in the Dominican Republic will be impossible. Already between  2011 and 2012 at least 68,700 Haitians were reportedly deported from the Dominican Republic.

The ruling has been strongly condemned by the United Nations, and  the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) in Geneva  has called on the Dominican Republic,  according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Haiti,  to take all necessary measures to ensure that citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality.

“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,” said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the OCHR.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has also expressed concern over the court ruling, and is further investigating this issue. However, the CARICOM statement has been strongly criticized by an editorial of October 18, 2013 in the Jamaican Gleaner as “puny”, a description with which we wholeheartedly agree.

We  – individuals and groups of civil society in Guyana and the Caribbean – strongly condemn the action taken by the Dominican Republic and call on the governments of CARICOM to spare no effort to defend our sister and brother Caribbean people in the Dominican Republic in the face of this assault on their very lives.

Persons who wish to add their names to the on line petition can go to  https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/caricom-defend-the-children-women-and-men-of-haitian-descent-born-in-the-dominican-republic-against-this-latest-assault-on-their-rights#share

 Yours faithfully,

(112 signatories from Guyana

and other countries)

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