Amid ongoing concern about the status of thousands of immigrants living in the Dominican Republic, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Haiti, Sandra Honoré, said that deportations carried out by Santo Domingo authorities should not result in statelessness of people of Haitian descent.
Ms. Honoré also considered that such acts should be consistent with the dignity, human rights and international humanitarian law.
This call comes as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last Friday appealed to the Government of the Dominican Republic to ensure that people who were arbitrarily deprived of their nationality as a result of a 2013 ruling of the Dominican Constitutional Court would not be deported.
According to UNHCR, in May 2014, the Dominican Republic adopted a naturalization law which provided for the re-issuance of nationality documents for some individuals born in the Dominican Republic and gave others the possibility to apply for special registration until February 2015, opening a path to eventual citizenship.
In a welcome development, the agency said, the Dominican authorities have concluded an audit of the first group whereby some 57,000 individuals could be reasonably presumed to have found a solution, but tens of thousands of people who were born in the Dominican Republic and are of Haitian descent remain stateless. The consequences of their eventual expulsion to Haiti could be devastating.
In an interview with UN Radio, Ms. Honoré said that in a recent meeting with the Foreign Minister and the immigration authorities in the Dominican Republic, those officials explained to her that during the process they would “take all necessary measures so that there was full respect for the basic guarantees of the people.”
Ms. Honoré, who is also head of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said that to date, there has been an increase in the flow of returnees and that both governments have decided that there would be official points for carrying out deportations.
“We encourage the dialogue recently begun at the level of foreign ministers of both countries to continue, to agree on the best way to…address these measures,” she said.
She said that at several points along the border where people have gathered, the Haitian Government does not have the capability to receive or process them. “This will, in fact, be a challenge for the Government,” she acknowledged, and added that in response, Haitian authorities have established a committee of national solidarity to deal with the question of returnees from the Dominican Republic.
In addition, Ms. Honoré said the Government of Haiti does have a contingency plan that it has developed to deal with the return of large numbers of Haitian citizens and the Government is working with UN agencies, funds and programmes regarding the support it needs to enact the plan.
“Our mandate for stabilization in Haiti dictates that we support the Government as best we can and within the resources that are available to us,” she said, explaining that elections – municipal, local and presidential – are scheduled to take place in Haiti over the coming months.
The UN would aim to maintain support for the Government to ensure that the climate surrounding these elections would be a serene as possible, and “we would do everything that we possibly can to ensure that the challenges posed by this situation do not translate into any undesirable effects on the overall election process,” concluded Ms. Honoré.