Stateless in the Caribbean (HB76)

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In 2013 the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court rescinded the nationality of hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian parentage sending shockwaves throughout the Caribbean and wider Americas with far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond.

Condemned for its discriminatory and retroactive nature, those affected have been criminalised for the origin of their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents. Barred from a range of services - including the most basic of citizenship rights - Dominicans of Haitian descent are struggling to gain access to a state education and healthcare services and now no longer have the right to work or vote in their country of birth.

Haiti Briefing no. 76 examines why the Haitian authorities have been hesitant to condemn the illegal treatment of Dominican citizens by their own government even when the ruling was in clear breach of international law. We also look at a worrying rise in Dominican nationalism and attempts by the authorities to confuse a matter that affects citizens born and raised in the Dominican Republic with the issue of Haitian migration to the country.

In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake of 12 January, 2010, something exceptional happened on the island of Hispaniola. Despite its long, fractured and often difficult relationship with Haiti, the Dominican Republic (DR) was the first nation to come to the assistance of its neighbour. Acting as the main conduit for international aid into Haiti, it provided first-hand emergency aid and offered supplies. Trained med- ical staff arrived to tend to the injured.

The solidarity shown by Dominicans was historically significant. The long-standing frictions between Haiti and the DR – in particular the vexed question of race relations – were glossed over. For its part, the international community was eager to emphasise the interconnectedness of the two island nations and to congratulate the DR for its stalwart efforts.

Ever-present on committees, eager to be seen as promoting “dialogue” and slapped on the back by international NGOs for their “participatory” and “collaborative” approach to Haitian development, Dominican diplomats found a new respectability in the international arena. The earthquake was the DR’s ground zero in rebranding its relationship with Haiti.