Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Citizenship, Dominican Republic-style

 Part 2

The new DR “naturalisation” law declares in Article I that its aim “is to establish (a) a special status for the benefit of children of foreign fathers and mothers, who are not residents, born in the national territory during the period included between June16,1929 and April 18, 2007, registered in the Dominican Civil Registry on the basis of documents that are not recognised by regulations in force regarding this area at the time of registration; and (b) the registration of children of foreign parents, who are in an irregular situation, born in the Dominican Republic and who are not registered in the Civil Registry.”

Article 6 reads: “Any child of foreign parents in an irregular migratory status who was born in the national territory and is not registered in the Dominican Civil Registry can be registered in the book for foreigners referred to in General Migration Law No. 285-04, as long as the birth can reliably be proven by the measures established in the regulations of this law.”

“Irregular situation”. “Irregular migratory status”. “Can reliably be proven”. You see the obstacles. Then, also in Article 6, follows the procedure for registration, which appears designed to frustrate the applicant. And bear in mind: Haitian-Dominican children are now almost certain to be registered, if they get as far as that, in “the book for foreigners”, seeing that hardly any of them are listed in the Civil Registry. And many of those who are so listed will already have been told that, in terms of Article I, their registration was done with incorrect documents.

The Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has dismissed the legislation. “Read in conjunction with the National Regularisation Plan,” it said on May 22, “the Naturalisation Law  formalises the denial of birthright citizenship to the children of foreigners who were never enrolled in the Civil Registry, in many cases due to the state’s practice of withholding birth certificates from Dominicans of Haitian descent. The new law also denies birthright citizenship to those born between 2007 and 2010 that have been arbitrarily registered as foreigners.”

“The majority of both groups,” it continues, “are Dominican citizens of Haitian descent...Nevertheless, these Dominicans must now self-report as foreigners and submit to a process of ‘regularisation’, which may eventually lead to naturalisation. Even should individuals from the groups succeed in obtaining naturalised citizenship, they would not enjoy the same rights as (other) Dominicans... Moreover, until they are naturalised, they will remain stateless and without the right to vote or access to basic services like other Dominicans.” Separate and unequal, in other words. Classic apartheid.

The Caricom heads meet in Antigua and Barbuda this week. What will they do about all this? In my previous article I mentioned the strong statement issued by the Caricom Bureau in late November last year, followed by a firm letter to the DR president from the then Caricom chairman, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Among other things, the bureau statement said that Caricom would “request an advisory opinion from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.” Seven months later, no such opinion has been requested. The statement promised that Caricom would “also consider the introduction of a Resolution at the United Nations General Assembly condemning the ruling.” Seven months later, consideration is no doubt still underway. 

And the statement “call(ed) on the global and regional community to pressure the government of the (DR) to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the (DR) Court does not stand and that the full citizenship rights of persons of Haitian descent born in the (DR) are guaranteed.” Caricom, it added, “accords this matter the highest priority”. My only comment is that, in the circumstances, I would not wish to be low on Caricom’s order of priorities.

Despite occasional rumblings, welcome though they be, from Ralph Gonsalves and his OAS ambassador, the organisation has been manifesting a massive shortage of energy and interest where the DR issue is concerned. To the contrary, there are even susurrations of retreat.  

I can only speak for myself. I cannot begin to contemplate having friendly relations with a state which so blatantly and cynically, and with such contempt for regional and international opinion, violates the elementary principles of human rights on what is obviously the basis of race.

If the heads decide to embrace such a state, I shall regard the organisation as an irrelevance to the people of the region. 

Part 1 appeared on Wednesday