SAN JUAN – Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit condemned on Tuesday the decision by the Dominican Republic to deport people of Haitian descent, saying that the Caribbean Community considers the situation a “major human rights issue.”
“What has happened is that you have people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic, who by a decision of the Supreme Court, denied them, stripped them off of their right to citizenship in the Dominican Republic,” Skerrit told a news conference.
He said CARICOM had received a commitment from the Dominican Republic government to take action to regularize those individuals.
“But the time frame which they gave and the onerous request which they were making of the applicants, make it impossible for the vast majority of those citizens to apply for their citizenship,” Skerrit said.
“The Dominican Republic has taken a decision to deport tens of thousands of Dominican Republic citizens back into Haiti with no address in Haiti, with no family links in Haiti because some of them have been there for so many years,” the prime minister said.
In CARICOM’s view, he said, “this is not an immigration issue, this is not about somebody in your country who does not have papers and the person is not regularized, doesn’t have a work permit and therefore you deport him.”
The deportations are a “human rights issue which all citizens and countries must speak out against and condemn,” Skerrit said.
The Dominican Republic set a June 17 deadline for the people affected by the original court ruling, mainly Haitians and the descendants of Haitians, to apply for legal residency.
As the deadline approached, hundreds of people waited in line for hours to submit residency applications under an initiative that began in June 2014.
The Dominican Republic said migrants who can prove they entered the country before October 2011 can qualify for legal residency.
“I believe that we, as citizens of the world, must be cognizant of these issues and to raise our voice in condemnation that it is unbecoming of any society to render these thousands of people stateless,” Skerrit said.
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.