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Challenging statelessness in Dominican Republic

October 2011

There is a line drawn on a map, which marks the division in territory between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. A twist of fate determines on which side of that line you are born. And that twist will affect your right to health care, or education, and even whether you have the right to be called a citizen.

Many people born on Dominican Republic soil to Haitian parents are having their Dominican Republic citizenship taken away from them, despite being born and raised in that country.

They live a life in limbo; part of an underclass of unrecognised non-citizens in the only country they can call home.

The result is that they become 'stateless', astonishingly subject to exploitation, arrest and even deportation. However, they may never have set foot in Haiti and are unlikely to speak Creole.

This is a result of a resolution that was passed in 2009, after which Dominicans have been refused copies or renewals of their identification documents simply because they have a foreign sounding surname or because they are of Haitian descent.

Challenging discrimination in the Dominican Republic

This discrimination is being challenged as part of a conference being held in Washington at the end of October. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is also challenging this withdrawal of citizenship.

Christian Aid is organising this conference in partnership with other influential agencies such as Church World Service, Jesuit Refugee Service USA and Refugees International.

Together, we are presenting our concerns on the vulnerability of stateless Dominicans, plus recommendations to leading international activists and advocates.

Conference objectives

The conference on statelessness is being held as part of a wider 'Advocacy Week' - a week-long series of events aiming to influence key decision makers in the long term. The objectives include:

  • to devise an advocacy strategy on the right to nationality in the Dominican Republic

  • to align the work between international and Dominican Republic based advocacy

  • to create new partnerships with groups not yet working on the issue, including human rights organisations in Dominican Republic

  • to support Dominican partners in providing protection for people deprived of nationality rights

  • to highlight the issue of statelessness in the Dominican Republic with key policy makers from the US Congress, the Presidential Administration and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The 'Advocacy Week' and conference won't change the situation for stateless Dominicans overnight. However, the outcomes will start a journey towards challenging discrimination and ensuring equal rights for all born on Dominican Republic soil.

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