Tuesday, December 27, 2011


(Globe and Mail) - Editorial

The traditionally strained relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic has sunk to a new low following the implementation of a controversial Dominican law that gives new meaning to being a bad neighbour.

The Dominican government has begun annulling the citizenship of people born in the country whose parents and grandparents lacked legal residency. The move is expected to leave hundreds, even thousands, of people stateless, most of them Haitians whose families migrated across the border years ago, to work on sugar-cane plantations.

The change reflects the difficulty the Dominican government has managing the flow of undocumented Haitians who cross the border in search of work, especially after the devastation of the 2010 earthquake.

There is an understandable sense of frustration, as Dominicans confront the reality that their country cannot absorb every Haitian wanting to migrate. Already, about one million Haitians and people of Haitian descent live in the DR, a country of 10 million.

However, the solution to managing this complex issue is not to retroactively strip people of their legally acquired citizenship. This is not only racist and impractical, it is unjust. How can citizens track down documentation from 50 years ago proving their parents had legal status? The law has already been declared illegal by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which received 457 complaints in October. “There are inherent conflicts when two countries share an island, and one is very poor and black, and the other is wealthier with a mixed-race population,” notes Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa. “But Haitians should not be treated as the bogeyman.”

The Dominican government should allow those of Haitian descent born in the DR to retain their citizenship, and resist the temptation to apply the law retroactively. It could consider investing in greater security and scrutiny at the border it shares with Haiti. There are other ways to convey to their neighbour that the Dominican Republic cannot grant a safe haven to everyone who wishes to live on the other side of Hispaniola island.

No comments: