Stateless in the Dominican Republic

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Anastasia Moloney writes about the hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic, but have neither Haitian nor Dominican citizenship; they now remain in a perpetual condition of statelessness. thousands of children are the victims of this legal morass. See excerpts with a link to the full article and photo blog:

For 75 years, the Dominican Republic granted automatic citizenship to anyone born in the Caribbean nation. But everything changed after the Dominican government passed a law in 2004 that effectively eliminated birthright citizenship. That means a child born in the Dominican Republic is no longer automatically a citizen. Today, citizenship usually is granted only to people who can prove they have at least one parent who has documents showing they are legal citizens of the Dominican Republic.

The law has had a profound impact on the hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic. Many are the children and grandchildren of Haitian migrants, who had crossed the border illegally from Haiti into the Dominican Republic to work in the country’s sugarcane fields and then permanently settled there. After being recognised as Dominican citizens for decades, they suddenly found this was no longer the case. [. . .] Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants have provided cheap labour on sugarcane fields, at construction sites and in homes as domestic workers in the Dominican Republic.  [. . .]

Edison Suero, a rights activist who works for a non-governmental organisation, the Socio-Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA), says the changes in Dominican citizenship laws have made many Dominicans of Haitian descent, in effect, stateless. “We’re talking about Dominicans born in the Dominican Republic who are being denied their right to citizenship. Without proper documentation, these residents have no legal status in the Dominican Republic and many who have been in the country for years are unable to prove they are legal citizens of Haiti. So they are not recognised as nationals by any country,” Suero said.

[. . .] “The vigorous enforcement of the new rules means that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly of Haitian descent, are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to their birth certificates, which are required to get married, obtain a high school diploma, start a business, get a driver’s license, passport or identity card, or even sign up for a mobile phone plan,” Suero said.

HaitimigrantsDR4-460X

It is children who often bear the brunt of being stateless. Seven-year-old Alesia (pictured) is one of Mariana Jose’s daughters. As she has no birth certificate or legal documents, Alesia cannot enroll at a local school. She is being deprived of basic rights, such as access to school and healthcare, which most Dominican citizens take for granted, Suero said.

Photo: Top, A Dominican woman of Haitian origin bathes in the Artibonito River that defines the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti (REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas).

For the complete article and photo blog, see http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/alertnet-news-blog/photo-blog-stateless-in-the-dominican-republic

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