Thousands of stateless in Dominican Republic risk deportation: rights group

Sat Jan 31, 2015 7:06pm EST
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tens of thousands of Dominican-born people of Haitian descent are stateless and at risk of being deported if they fail to meet a Sunday deadline to register for residency in the Dominican Republic, Amnesty has warned.

For decades the Dominican Republic recognized the children of Haitian migrants born in the country as Dominican citizens irrespective of the migration status of their parents.

But a 2013 court ruling, along with previous changes to nationality laws, have denied children of Haitian migrants their birth certificates, identity documents, and stripped them of their nationality, Amnesty and the United Nations say.

This means up to 200,000 people are in legal limbo and stateless - not recognized as a citizen by any country - and denied the basic rights most people take for granted.

In recent weeks, long queues of stateless people, the vast majority of Haitian descent, have formed at immigration offices in the capital Santo Domingo waiting to apply for residency permits before the Feb. 1 deadline.

"At the stroke of midnight the hopes of tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be scuppered as this deadline expires. This could leave thousands at risk of possible expulsion from the country," Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

"Even if these people are able to stay in the Dominican Republic after the deadline expires, their futures are woefully uncertain."

The Dominican government has said changes to the nationality laws aim to tackle illegal migration from neighboring Haiti.   Continued...