Refugees International Calls on Dominican Republic to Comply With Its International Human Rights Obligations

Refugees International is deeply concerned about the implications of a September 23, 2013, Dominican Constitutional Court decision that retroactively changes the rules for acquiring Dominican citizenship. This ruling applies to all individuals born in the country between 1929 and 2009 and could leave hundreds of thousands of people stateless.

As RI has documented, since 2007 the Dominican government has been stripping Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican identity documents without due process. If international pressure is not brought to bear on the Dominican Republic, this recent court decision could result in the mass denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

“People born in the Dominican Republic between 1929 and 2009 grew up believing that they were Dominican citizens because citizenship was granted by virtue of being born in the country,” said RI Statelessness Program Manager Sarnata Reynolds. “Apart from the children of diplomats, the only people excluded from birthright citizenship in the Dominican Constitution were people considered to be ‘in transit.’ But the Dominican courts are now effectively stating that nearly every Dominican of Haitian descent is ‘in transit,’ even though many have lived in the country their entire lives, and in some cases, for four generations.” The Inter-American Court of Human Rights clearly rejected this definition of “in transit” in its 2005 decision in Yean & Bosico v Dominican Republic.

“Without access to an identity card it is extremely hard to survive in the Dominican Republic,” said RI Senior Advocate Melanie Teff. “The hundreds of thousands of people affected by this judgment will lose access to public services and could even be deported to Haiti. Many Dominicans of Haitian descent have never been to Haiti and have no links there, so they will likely be unable to access Haitian citizenship and could be rendered stateless.”

RI calls on the Dominican Republic to comply with the 2005 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Yean & Bosico, and to ensure that Dominican citizens of Haitian origin are not deprived of their right to nationality.