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Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent at risk of mass deportation

17 June 2015 - Christian Aid is concerned about the plight of tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent at risk of deportation from the Dominican Republic (DR) from this week.

This threat of mass deportations follows the Dominican government’s warning that any undocumented immigrants who do not meet a June 17 deadline to enrol under its ‘National Regularisation Plan for Foreign Migrants’ could be deported to neighbouring Haiti.

The immigration rules are designed to give undocumented migrants in the DR access to legal papers. However, the government is also using it to target Dominico-Haitians whose births in the DR were never registered and who have no official identity papers, but who do not consider themselves migrants.

Christian Aid partners report that tens of thousands of Dominico-Haitians have been unable to process their status under the regularisation plan, due to lack of information, difficulty gathering costly paperwork and delays with official processing of applications. They may now be forced to leave their home country as early as June 18 and left stateless.

Christian Aid and its local partners in both Haiti and the DR are deeply concerned about the humanitarian cost of such deportations. Prospery Raymond, Christian Aid Country Manager for Haiti and the DR, said: “Dominicans of Haitian descent are Dominican: they feel, act and dream as Dominicans.

"Most don’t view themselves as having any personal connection with Haitians, except for sharing an ethnic origin. They do not possess Haitian documentation, nor are they entitled to it. And yet, they’re facing the very real danger of being forcibly removed to a completely alien country. 

“If major deportations begin, this could trigger a new humanitarian crisis on the island. It is therefore important that everyone at risk has their cases individually examined and given the right to appeal, respecting due process. Christian Aid’s priority is to be ready to support and assist displaced women, men and children who could be affected.”

He added: “We are greatly concerned about the psychosocial impact on families who may be separated, the lack of support services available to deportees and the conduct of the deportations, which continue to fall well short of binational protocols and international standards.

“Mass deportations will put additional strain on water supply and could lead to an increase of cholera and other sanitation issues, particularly for children or the elderly. To avoid a crisis along the border, both governments must demonstrate they have appropriate public health plans in place, so that deportees are not affected by the already challenging drought in that region.”

Arbitrary deportations have already been taking place: Christian Aid partners report that from January to April of this year over 1,000 people were forcibly removed to Haiti without due process.

Deportees will not automatically be eligible for Haitian citizenship and will be considered stateless, says the Haitian government, which is, by its own admission, ill-prepared and lacking the capacity to deal with large-scale deportations. The majority of Haitians live in poverty, with little access to basic services: over 80,000 people remain displaced by the 2010 earthquake.

Christian Aid’s partners are calling on the Dominican government to allow anyone partially registered, who meets the criteria for the Regularisation Plan, to remain in the country “without fear or threat of deportation”. Both states are being urged to work together to find the best solution to this complex issue, which blurs the lines between nationality and migration.

“Since international laws prohibit arbitrary and collective expulsions, any violation of these laws is a concern for the international community,” said Prospery Raymond. “Our partners hope that other governments, particularly the UK, US and Spain, will lobby the Dominican government to halt deportations, while supporting Haiti and the DR to address this issue.

“However, should mass deportations begin this week, it is vital that both states have contingency plans in place to ensure the safe, dignified and respectful conduct of deportations in line with obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Previously, people born in the DR were automatically granted citizenship, regardless of their parents’ country of origin (an exception was made for ‘foreigners in transit’). However, in September 2013 the Dominican Constitutional Court stripped citizenship from those born after 1929 to undocumented migrant parents, leaving up to 200,000 Dominico-Haitians stateless.

In May 2014, following pressure from local civil society organisations (CSOs) including Christian Aid partners, the Dominican government issued a law attempting to mitigate some of the effects of the 2013 ruling. This law divides the affected population into two categories of people.

The first group were those whose births in the DR were officially recorded. This group could have their nationality fully restored by registering with the country’s Central Electoral Board. However, in practice, many of those eligible have yet to be given identity documents, preventing them from exercising certain rights, such as accessing an identity card needed for voting and banking.

The second group affected by the 2014 law are those whose births were unregistered. Despite being Dominican, they were asked to register as migrants in order to receive a residency permit. After two years they could then apply for naturalisation, albeit as ‘second-tier nationals’ with fewer civil rights. This group was also required to apply under the government’s regularisation plan.

Reports suggest Dominican officials have refused to issue identity documents to around 40,000 Dominico-Haitians who fall under the second category: fewer than 9,000 have registered so far. Christian Aid partners have been helping affected individuals to get access to documentation and have pledged to continue pushing for the right to nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent.

For further details contact Tomi Ajayi on 020 7523 2427 or tajayi@christian-aid.org. (24-hour duty phone: 07850 242950.)

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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