CARICOM APPEALS TO THE DR

Caribbean Community governments this week appealed to the Dominican Republic to halt the expulsion of people of Haitian descent in the wake of a simmering dispute over the island’s denial of them to have citizenship.

The governments in a statement warned that the failure of Dominican authorities to cease expelling people of Haitian descent who were born there could lead to “a humanitarian crisis in our region.”

“In reiterating its human rights concerns, the community emphasized that these Dominicans had been made stateless by a ruling of the constitutional court which had been made retroactive to 1929, revoking their nationality. The very real possibility that they could be expelled to Haiti, a country of which they are not citizens and with which many have neither family nor language links was an additional cause for concern.”

The issue is expected to be discussed at length when leaders meet for their main annual summit in Barbados from July 2-4. Angry at the court ruling two years ago, leaders said they were suspending moves by the DR, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, to join the 15-nation grouping as a full member until it reverses the decision and treats people of Haitian descent with dignity and grant them nativity.

In its latest missive on an issue that is clearly not going away, CARICOM said that it is so concerned about a possible humanitarian crisis that they raised the issue at a mid June meeting of the CariForum Group that also includes the DR in Brussels, Belgium and was told “of the plight of Dominicans of Haitian descent who are now stateless, both those who were documented and those who were not.”

The CariForum grouping that deals mostly with trade and other relations with Europe is the closest and most formal opportunity the DR gets to interact with CARICOM.

The leaders said that the DR gave a commitment to adhere to several principles regarding the issue including the protection of citizenship and the presumption that persons should not be rendered stateless, noting that the meeting had agreed to establish proposals to set up appropriate benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms to be presented to the group for consideration.

“The community calls on the Dominican Republic authorities to adhere to the principles and confirm the citizenship status of Dominicans of Haitian descent and not to engage in the expulsion of Dominicans of Haitian descent and avoid creating a humanitarian crisis in our region.”

But London-based Caribbean expert David Jessop said in a recent piece on Haiti and other issues that CARICOM will soon realize that the DR does not really care for closer relations with the grouping and based on recent public utterances from President Danilo Medina, it is seeking closer cooperation with Puerto Rico, Cuba and even Haiti, its hated neighbor.

“His statement to ambassadors should also be seen as a reflection of a process that is likely to lead the DR away from most nations in CARICOM at a time when a closer relationship might have brought significant long-term benefits. It will undoubtedly amplify the voices of those in Santo Domingo who believe that there is no longer any reason to seek a deeper economic relationship with CARICOM,” Jessop posited.

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