Dominican Republic: Reckless deportations to Haiti leaving thousands in limbo - new report

Hundreds of people entitled to Dominican nationality have been unlawfully expelled from the country in recent months in a wave of removals that has seen 100,000 individuals returned or deported to neighbouring Haiti, Amnesty International said in a new report out today (15 June).

The report, “Where are we going to live?” Migration and statelessness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is published a year after the Dominican Republic ended a moratorium on deportations to Haiti, during which people with irregular immigration status could apply to regularise it. The report reveals the reckless way in which the two governments have been handling the return or deportation of tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

More than 40,000 people – including several hundred unaccompanied children – were deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti in the nine months between last August and May this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Haitian civil society organisations. At least another 68,000 returned to Haiti “spontaneously”, in many cases following threats or through fear of persecution and violence in the Dominican Republic.

Though 85% of the total number deported told the IOM they were born in Haiti, 15% claim to have been born in the Dominican Republic. The majority are children of Haitian migrants who returned “voluntarily”, but who could be entitled to Dominican nationality. Nearly 1,600 people were verified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as being entitled to Dominican nationality who have been unlawfully expelled from the country.

Meanwhile, around 2,000 people have been living in six makeshift camps close to the southern Haitian border town of Anse-à-Pitre since August. Conditions in the camps are dire with little access to food, water and sanitation or healthcare facilities. It was not until mid-February this year that a plan was set up to relocate all families in the areas of their choice.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Since arbitrarily stripping thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their nationality, the Dominican authorities have created a human rights crisis that is leaving tens of thousands of people in an absolute and desperate legal limbo.”

“The Dominican Republic’s opaque way of deporting people and Haiti’s lack of capacity to offer them protection has created a disastrous and chaotic situation. Living conditions in these camps are extremely desperate and the authorities of both countries have failed to ensure the wellbeing of these people.”

The few improvements made by the Dominican Republic – such as avoiding collective deportations and making sure they are not carried out at night -- have not gone far enough to ensure the rights of those affected are protected, including by individually screening people to be deported and ensuring that no one entitled to stay in the Dominican Republic is expelled.

Many of the deportations are being carried out without paperwork. Some of the deportees said they were arrested in the street and taken straight to the border after they failed to produce identification documents on the spot.

None of the people interviewed by Amnesty were served with a deportation order, nor did they have the chance to challenge its legality in court. None were offered legal aid.

Dominicans of foreign descent

In September 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled that children born in the country to undocumented foreign parents since 1929 had never been entitled to Dominican nationality. The judgment disproportionately affected Dominicans of Haitian descent and constituted a retroactive, arbitrary and discriminatory deprivation of nationality.

Following the expiry of the ‘regularisation plan’ for people with irregular immigration status on 18 June last year, the Dominican authorities said they would not expel anybody who could prove they had been born in the Dominican Republic. They also promised that each case would be assessed individually and that people born in the country would be screened and protected from expulsion. However, hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian descent, and stateless people, have been caught up in a continuing wave of deportations. There is a lack of formal mechanisms for people who have been wrongly expelled to be formally readmitted to the Dominican Republic and claim reparations. In addition, the Haitian authorities lack any mechanisms to deal with Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been expelled or have arrived in Haiti, including those who are stateless.

Erika Guevara-Rosas said:

“This crisis was long in the making. It is high time for the authorities both in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to take their responsibilities seriously and protect the rights of the thousands of people who have been left in this limbo.

“The newly elected Dominican authorities must take urgent action to tackle this crisis. They must immediately halt illegal expulsions of Dominican-born individuals and make sure that all deportations of undocumented migrants are in line with international law. They must also reinstate nationality to the tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been arbitrarily stripped of it.”

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