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Stateless in the land of your birth – right here in the Caribbean

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Fri Oct 18, 2013

Editor: I stand firmly behind Prime Minister Gonsalves in his written protest and expression of concern for the plight of thousands of natives of the Dominican Republic, who by the Constitutional Court’s decision, have been declared stateless.{{more}}

Even if you were born there, but neither parent was a Dominican or a legal resident, then you are not a Dominican, despite what your birth registration document may say. It so happens that the people who fall in this category are descendants of labourers who originally came from the adjoining state of Haiti, many decades ago.

The effective quashing of the citizenship of these persons of Haitian descent, who have lived all their lives in this country, is to my mind an outrage and should be condemned by all member states of the Cariforum grouping, as well as of the OAS.

It is difficult to fathom why the Court would rule that an individual who, born in the Dominican Republic, has reached the age of 84 years, speaks only the Spanish language, knows primarily the Dominican culture, schooled there, and contributed to the production and goods and services in this his native land, is now ruled to be a person without a country to call his own.

It may seem to many of us within Caricom that this turn of events has little to do with us. I have another view. After all, it clearly seems to be targeted at descendants of Haitian émigrés who, for the most part, happen to be of the same ethnic background as most of us. And Haiti is a full-fledged Caricom member state.

There are Vincentians who are studying in Santo Domingo. There are Dominicans who have, in recent times, made their homes in Antigua and elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean. The present and future of our banana exports are closely linked to those from the Dominican Republic as well. We in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been using steel, cement, tiles, toilet sets, juices and other products that carry the tag – “Hecho en La Republica Dominicana”.

It will be interesting to note whether well-known Dominican baseball players of African descent, such as Sammy Sosa and Albert Pujols, would also now fall in this category of stateless persons.

Despite the court ruling, this is an issue that the lawmakers of the Dominican Republic can reverse. By ourselves, our position will matter little to the powers-that-be in the Dom. Rep. However, if Caricom targets Ottawa, Washington and London, the capitals of countries that account for their tourists and for the importation of their goods, we may yet see a reversal of this outrageous ruling.

Joel Providence

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