michel-martelly_press_conference__web.jpgCaribbean Community (Caricom) has condemned a court ruling in the Dominican Republic that could strip citizenship from children born to migrants living in the country illegally and the trade bloc at its meeting on Nov. 25 deferred a Dominican request to become a member.

Caricom’s chairwoman Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, said the group also will review its relationship with the Dominican Republic in other forums.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said the intention is to help the Dominican government find a quick and fair resolution for those affected.

“We are sending the signal there can be no business as usual,” Gonsalves said.  Two months ago, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled that being born in the country did not automatically grant citizenship under the current constitution. The ruling is retroactive to 1929.

Advocates warn that some 200,000 people could be stripped of their citizenship and documents they need to work or attend school. The government said in a preliminary report that only about 24,000 people would be affected.

Persad-Bissessar said Dominican President Danilo Medina sent her a statement promising that his government would not deport anyone affected by the ruling. She expected him to honor that pledge, she said.

“The government of the Dominican Republic must be prepared to show good faith by immediate, credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve this nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time,” she said.

Haiti President Michel Martelly attended the Caricom meeting. He said he was supposed to meet with Dominican officials by week’s end, noting he wanted to see concrete action taken.

But a day after the Caricom statement, the Dominican Republic government canceled a planned meeting with Haitian officials to talk about the court ruling.

Dominica’s Presidential Minister Gustavo Montalvo said the government canceled a meeting scheduled for Saturday in Venezuela because it felt Haiti violated an earlier agreement to prioritize bilateral dialogue in the case.

“Haiti has chosen to take another road and that puts an end to our conversations at this time,” he said in a statement.  Jose Ramon Fadul, president of the Dominican Republic’s National Migration Council, accused Caricom of interference and retaliation.

The rise in tensions between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola comes as more than 350 Haitians and people of Haitian descent were expelled or volunteered to leave the Dominican Republic. The exodus followed the killing of an elderly Dominican couple during an apparent burglary near the border and the subsequent slaying of a Haitian man by a mob of Dominicans.

Salim Succar, an adviser to Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said he deeply regretted the Dominican government’s decision.
“We remain very open and committed to discuss decisions that affect both our nations,” he said. “We are very concerned by the massive repatriation of Haitians and urge the government to take all measures to protect and defend the human rights of our fellow Haitians living in their country.”

But on Saturday, the Dominican Republic launched a plan putting the court ruling into motion. The plan states that those affected by the ruling have 18 months to request Dominican citizenship starting in June 2014. The plan, however, does not provide details on what kind of requirements or conditions should be met.

Medina signed the plan days before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights holds a five-day hearing to receive complaints and testimony from those affected by the ruling.

The plan is contradictory because it seeks to naturalize people who were already born in the Dominican Republic and do not have passports from another country, according to Joseph Cherubin, director of the local nonprofit Sociocultural Movement for Haitian Workers.

“To naturalize someone, they need to have a foreign passport,” he said. “You can’t naturalize a Dominican.”  The plan is being launched as 464 people have either been deported to Haiti or left the Dominican Republic voluntarily in the past week due to anti-Haitian sentiments following the murder of an elderly Dominican couple.