SAN JUAN – The Dominican Republic’s policy of denying citizenship to persons of Haitian descent born in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country is “simply unacceptable,” the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said on Monday.
“It is unacceptable to have a public policy in relation to citizenship grounded in ethnicity or your national origins,” Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference on his return from an official trip to Europe.
“Persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, who, by any international standard, should be citizens of the Dominican Republic, they are denied citizenship,” he said.
The policy, which creates the possibility of mass deportations of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, is a “stain” on the reputation of the Caribbean, the prime minister said.
Last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency urged the Dominican Republic not to deport the people whose citizenship was thrown into question by a 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Many people born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian parents faced immense obstacles when trying to obtain the right documentation to register for a National Regularization Plan and only around 240,000 applications were received ahead of last week’s deadline.
In the past, the Dominican government cited unofficial estimates of around 1 million Haitians living in the country, most of them illegal immigrants working in agriculture and construction.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion.
Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugarcane.
Haitians have been the target of mob violence numerous times in recent years and the Dominican government has been widely criticized for its treatment of the migrants.