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Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]


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THE SEPTEMBER 2013 Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal ruling that persons born after 1929 of undocumented immigrants on Dominican Republic soil were not entitled to citizenship rights by birth, has presented CARICOM with a major regional crisis which demands a strong response.

Not only has the decision rendered as “stateless” thousands Of persons born in the Dominican Republic, but it has also opened these persons, including children, to xenophobic violence. History is replete with examples of the DR’s deportation drives being accompanied by massacres, as in 1937, when the inability to pronounce certain words in vintage Dominican accent was a death sentence for thousands of Haitians being deported.

The decision has also created a humanitarian crisis within a CARICOM member-state as the denationalisation policy by the DR has created the fifth largest “stateless” population in the world and the forced deportation of thousands of Dominican-born citizens has opened up a refugee crisis on the Haitian side of the border, with reports of cholera outbreaks threatening to add to the woes of our already over-burdened neighbour.

Step up actions

While CARICOM has officially condemned the decision by the constitutional court and has backed up its denunciation by deferring consideration on an application by the DR for membership to CARICOM, the scale and seriousness of the violation of the human rights of Dominican-born Haitians, and the inherent discriminatory motives of the DR”s action, demand that CARICOM governments and citizens step up their actions to register with greater force their disapproval, and to spark a reversal of the DR’s position.

Charity begins at home. It is unthinkable that a region which was at the centre of the struggle against apartheid with its leading personalities, such as its internationally famous cricketers, and its leading statespersons such as Sir Shridath Ramphal and Dame Nita Barrow, fighting an unrelenting struggle against South African racism, cannot find more creative, effective and sustained political responses to an official discriminatory practice occurring right here in the region and directly impacting on a CARICOM member state.

A greater effort is needed to identify the various regional and international interests currently being pursued by the Dominican Republic and for which they may require CARICOM support. Also, CARICOM civil society needs to monitor more closely the various appointments of DR officials to leading international offices, and to link their support or opposition to these appointments to the DR’s progress in reversing its discriminatory citizenship policy.

The moral strength and basis of CARICOM’s stance must be based on our historical debt to Haiti, in opening the doors for Caribbean statehood and independence 1804. When the rest of the region was steeped in miserable slavery the Haitian independence constitution had offered citizenship and freedom to any person of colour who touched Haitian soil.

Two hundred years later it is CARICOM’s turn to exhibit courage, solidarity and gratitude.

 Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]