Friday, January 19, 2018

Caricom pressure for DR on citizen crisis

Until the Dominican Republic changes its position of stripping people of Haitian descent born to undocumented immigrants of their citizenship, then Caricom will not consider its application to join the Community.

“It cannot be business as usual. In light of the grave humanitarian implications of the court ruling the Community cannot allow its relationship with the Dominican Republic to continue as normal. The Community at this time will suspend consideration of the request of the Dominican Republic for membership to Caricom,” current Caricom chair Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday at a media conference after a special meeting of the Caricom Bureau at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Port of Spain.

Also attending the meeting were St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves; Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRoque and Haitian President Michel Martelly.

In 2002, Haiti was formally made a member of Caricom which comprises 15 Caribbean nations.

On September 23, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic made a judgment that would retroactively strip tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship, rendering them stateless and with no course of appeal.

Yesterday, almost two months later, Caricom met formally on the matter, which has since been raising international concern.

“Caricom is opposed to the conditions whereby Dominicans of Haitian descent who have significantly contributed to (the development of the country) are being treated as transitory visitors. Those who are affected are being denied their basic human rights including freedom of movement and access to education,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The Community was particularly strong in its reprimands, calling the judgment “a terrible wrong”.

“Caricom condemns the abhorrent and discriminatory ruling ... it is especially repugnant that the ruling ... violates the Domincan Republic’s international human rights obligations,” the statement, read by Persad-Bissessar, said.

Caricom reiterated its call to the Dominican Republic to take the necessary political, legislative and administrative steps to “urgently redress the grave humanitarian situation created by the ruling”.

While Caricom has decided to defer consideration of the Dominican Republic’s application to join Caricom, this is so far the only action it has taken.

Persad-Bissessar said blocking the Dominican Republic’s participation in Cariforum is not yet an option, but there are several options that Caricom is considering, if the country does not reconsider its stance; for the moment, however, Caricom is going to rely on dialogue.

“I take note of the communication I received from Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina that his government will take measures to ensure no one is deported.

Caricom expects that these assurances will be honoured. Caricom is prepared to engage the Dominican Republic, but the government of the Dominican Republic must be prepared to show good faith by taking credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve this nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Martelly, however, said that so far, 300 people have been repatriated to Haiti, including babies and young children.

“Most of these people do not know the country, do not speak the language and have no family in Haiti,” he said.