Amnesty International sees ´ghost´ Dominican citizens
The DominicanRepublic’s bureaucratic legal maze has left thousands of stateless “ghostcitizens”, who are unable to work regularly, enroll in high school or even seea doctor, said Amnesty International in a new report today.
‘Without papers, I amno one’: Stateless people in the Dominican Republic debunks official statementsthat no one in the Dominican Republic lacks a nationality. It explores theintricate legal labyrinth created by the authorities since the 1990s and morerecently through a 2013 ruling which has arbitrarily left tens of thousands ofpeople born to foreign parents or grandparents without a nationality.
“With the stroke of apen, authorities in the Dominican Republic have effectively wiped fourgenerations of Dominicans off the map. Without nationality, tens of thousandsof people have become virtual ghosts, who face serious obstacles in accessingbasic services in the country,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director atAmnesty International.
With the stroke of apen, authorities in the Dominican Republic have effectively wiped fourgenerations of Dominicans off the map. Without nationality, tens of thousandsof people have become virtual ghosts, who face serious obstacles in accessingbasic services in the country.
“The efforts made bythe government to address the situation of those made stateless have proveninsufficient. Hiding away from this drama by saying the problem does not existwill not make it go away.”
Ramona Rellis Felisteand her children are some of the tens of thousands of stateless people in theDominican Republic ©Amnesty International.
Since the early 1990s,Dominican-born people of Haitian descent have become the target of a number ofadministrative, legislative and judicial decisions aimed at restricting theiraccess to Dominican identity documents and ultimately to Dominican nationality.
In September 2013, theDominican Constitutional Court ruled that children born in the country since1929 to undocumented foreign parents are not entitled to Dominican nationality.The ruling effectively left the vast majority of them stateless.
The government tried tomitigate the effects of this discriminatory judgement but, along the way, hascreated a number of intricate processes and categories of people that most findimpossible to navigate.
A six-monthnaturalization programme, which expired on 1 February 2015, has proven mostlyinadequate. Hundreds of people say that they never received information aboutthe programme and only learnt of its existence after it had already expired.Many claim that the list of papers they were required to produce was impossibleto comply with. This included a signed declaration by a midwife or sevenwitnesses who could testify that they were born in the country.
Many parents are stillrefused birth registration for their children. The majority of these childrencontinue to be stateless.
Dozens of Dominicans offoreign descent who spoke with Amnesty International said the lack of papersput them in a very vulnerable position, exposing them to abuse.
Adonis was born in theDominican Republic in 1994 to Haitians parents. His birth was never registeredbecause his parents lack of documents ©Santiago Vidal.
Marisol (not her realname) is a young Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent. Neither she nor herbrothers and sisters were registered at birth, as their parents had no formalidentification. When they died, she was 10 years old and had no other choicebut to become a domestic worker with a wealthy family in Santo Domingo.
The family promised tosend her to school, but instead forced her to work 15 hours a day. They beather and never allowed her attend school. She could not apply to thenaturalization plan as, by the time she had heard about it, it had alreadyexpired. The family she works for as a cleaner is now threatening to fire her,afraid of the sanctions they might face for employing an undocumented person.With no identity papers, Marisol can’t register her children either. “I hopedthey could have a better future, but without identity documents it is not goingto be possible,” she told Amnesty International.
“Authorities in theDominican Republic must urgently find a long term solution to this crisis. Asimple and accessible procedure without a time limit for the recognition of theDominican nationality to all those deprived of it by the 2013 ruling would be acrucial first step,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.