Retroactive effect of Dominican Republic migrant court ruling unacceptable, says Trinidad PM

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — In a letter sent on Thursday to the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, concerning the controversial court ruling that affects the immigration status of hundreds of thousands of Dominican nationals of Haitian descent, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, described the retroactive aspect of the judgment as “unacceptable”.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

“The retroactive aspect of the judgment to 1929 means that generations of some families who previously held Dominican nationality and obtained national identification documents, and exercised their rights in various facets of life in the Dominican Republic such as voting in elections, have been denationalised. This, to my government, is unacceptable,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Additionally, she said, any commitment to naturalise those persons is at variance with established norms and principles whereby naturalisation frameworks constitute a means for foreign nationals to acquire citizenship. This is not applicable in this instance.

“Accordingly, I call on you to take steps to restore immediately Dominican nationality to those who have been denationalised,” Persad-Bissessar continued.

Medina had written to Persad-Bissessar on November 25, 2013, advising of his government’s efforts to implement the judgment of the Constitutional Court (TC 168-13) issued on September 23, 2013. On November 29, 2013, he signed decree 327-13 that establishes the terms and conditions for the legalisation of “foreigners” with irregular status in the Dominican Republic.

“Regrettably, in my respectful view, these efforts fall short of that which is required to address the troubling situation occasioned upon those who have been adversely affected by the judgment. In this regard, I wish to highlight the deep concern of my Government with the circumstances confronting those persons who have been deprived of their nationality, who are estimated to number in excess of 200,000. The violation of their right to legal personhood has left many in a state of vulnerability with serious consequences for the full exercise of their human rights. It also contravenes the international human rights obligations freely entered into by the Dominican state,” Persad-Bissessar responded.

As the current chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member state, Persad-Bissessar said she was especially disheartened at the disproportionate impact of judgment TC 168-13 on persons of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. This has led a number of states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to describe the judgment as discriminatory, thus tarnishing the image of the Dominican Republic globally.

Persad-Bissessar welcomed reports that the Dominican Republic and Haiti will designate two commissions to deal with immigration and trade issues as well as environment and poverty.

“Nevertheless, the issue of the denationalisation of those who previously held Dominican nationality from 1929 to 2010 must be addressed immediately. I therefore wish to reiterate my call to exercise bold and decisive leadership by taking immediate steps to restore Dominican nationality to those who have been denationalised. For Trinidad and Tobago, sovereignty should not be invoked as a defence for human rights violations,” she added.

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