Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been hit by numerous natural disasters, the 2010 earthquake, which claimed the lives of some 100,000 to 316,000 Haitians; a devastating cholera outbreak, and more recently suffered severe flooding making 10,000 people homeless. On 7th February 2016, Michel Martelly resigned as President and Haiti's fragile democracy returned to a state of uncertainty. A new president won't be elected until 24th April 2016.
Could a country suffer more bad luck?
With all these problems what has the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s immediate neighbour done? It has renounced the citizenship of 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent living there, effectively making them stateless people.
In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court’s decision shockingly stripped Haitian descendents of Dominican citizenship retroactively.
The Dominican Republic is the largest economy in the Caribbean and one of the biggest in the Central American region with a total nominal GDP of USD 64.1 billion (2014). With a per capita income of $6,000 per head, it is a developing middle-income country and should be doing more to help it’s neighbour, not potentially increasing Haiti’s problems. Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with three-quarters of the population living on less than 2 USD per day.
In 2013 “The British Government’s Travel Advice offered objective assessments of risks to British nationals visiting the Dominican Republic. Armed street crime, particularly in Santo Domingo, is a problem,” a diplomat said, noting that even two members of the Embassy staff had been mugged at gunpoint in separate incidents on the busy thoroughfare Bolivar Av. in six months in that year.
In 1850, the UK became the first country to sign a formal treaty with the Dominican Republic and in so doing became the first country to recognise it as a sovereign state. According to the International Organization for Migration, in total, more than 10,000 people were ‘officially’ expelled in 2015, with a further 10,000 people claiming to have been kicked out as well.
Many Dominicans of Haitian descent live in impoverished barrios and desperately need help to overcome the barriers that prevent them from getting an education and finding work. But in this climate of fear, to Haitians who have lived in the Dominican Republic as laborers for generations, such threats are not idle. The mass murder of 9,000 to 20,000 Haitians ordered by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937, cloud the relationship between the two countries. We now have the unprecedented situation of genuine migrants returning to Haiti as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent because of discrimination, intimidation and fear.
In February 2016 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said policies toward people of Haitian descent were discriminatory.
“The Commission considers that judgment by the Constitutional Court led to the arbitrary deprivation of nationality to all persons over whom it extended its effects on. At the same time, the ruling had a discriminatory effect, since it struck mainly Dominicans of Haitian descent.”
We feel strongly that the British Government should make stronger representations to the Dominican Republic about their discriminatory, anti human rights practices, they should alert potential travellers to the country’s poor record on all these counts, and break off diplomatic ties until these human rights violations stop.
We need to do more. So what can we do? We can start by writing to our MPs and asking our politicians to address human rights issues in the Dominican Republic/Haiti. Also, if you are thinking about booking that cheap package holiday to the Dominican Republic, you might want to reconsider...