CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY Foreign Ministers are bracing for a crucial test of their “no-business-as-usual” stand against the Dominican Republic (DR) when they meet next month for the Eighth UK-Caribbean Forum in London.
The core problem relates to controversial amendments to the DR’s immigration laws that have effectively denationalised an estimated quarter million immigrants, the great majority being of Haitian descent.
At their two-day meeting in Guyana lasat week (May 20-21), the Caricom Foreign Ministers revisited the controversial “denationalistion” law in preparation for the coming up Forum which will be hosted by the British Government on June 16-17.
The so-called “elephant in the room”, as euphemestically expressed by members of Caricom’s Council of Foreign Ministers, is awareness of the DR as a member of the CARIFORUM group of countries. This is the mechanism by which Caricom and the DR do business together—trade, investments etc—with the European Union (EU) of which the UK is a vital player.
Aware of strong criticisms against the discriminatory immigration law, condemned by, for instance, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Caricom has vowed against “doing business as usual” with the DR unless changes are made to the “race-based” law.
The big challenge for Caricom’s Foreign Ministers and the British government would be the modalities in implementing their work agenda at next month’s UK-Caribbean Forum.
This is the first time such a major challenge has emerged in UK-Caribbean relations and, ironically, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague is scheduled to address the first plenary session on June 16 on the topic “Partners in Prosperity”Security”. The session is scheduled to be chaired by Home Office Minister Karen Bradley.
Meanwhile, in a further related development that’s viewed in favour of Caricom’s firm stand against the DR’s controversial constitutional amendments, the Washington-based Robert F Kennedy Center has announced its decision to “deepen collaboration with human rights defenders in the Dominican Republic” as well as “expand its international tribunals…”
The Center, is named after the assassinated former attorney general, Robert Kennedy.
The amended law, as noted by the Kennedy Center, is a direct response by the DR Constitutional court’s decision in September last year against a petition by an immigrant (Juliana Deguis), born of foreign parent. The ruling retroactively altered the criteria for obtaining Dominican nationality between 1929 and 2010, affecting thousands of immigrants born in the DR and now deemed stateless.