Santo Domingo. - The Dominican Republic’s bureaucratic legal maze has left thousands of stateless "ghost citizens", who are unable to work regularly, enroll in high school or even see a doctor, said Amnesty International in a new report on Friday. The report debunks official statements that no one in the Dominican Republic lacks a nationality.
"Without papers, I am no one": Stateless people in the Dominican Republic explores the intricate legal labyrinth created by the authorities since the 1990s and more recently through a 2013 ruling which has arbitrarily left tens of thousands of people born to foreign parents or grandparents without a nationality.
"With the stroke of a pen, authorities in the Dominican Republic have effectively wiped four generations of Dominicans off the map. Without nationality, tens of thousands of people have become virtual ghosts, who face serious obstacles in accessing basic services in the country," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
"The efforts made by the government to address the situation of those made stateless have proven insufficient. Hiding away from this drama by saying the problem does not exist will not make it go away."
According to Amnesty International, since the early 1990s, Dominican-born people of Haitian descent have become the target of a number of administrative, legislative and judicial decisions aimed at restricting their access to Dominican identity documents and ultimately to Dominican nationality.
In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that children born in the country since 1929 to undocumented foreign parents are not entitled to Dominican nationality. The ruling effectively left the vast majority of them stateless.
The government tried to mitigate the effects of this discriminatory judgement but, along the way, has created a number of intricate processes and categories of people that most find impossible to navigate.
A six-month naturalization programme, which expired on 1 February 2015, has proven mostly inadequate. Hundreds of people say that they never received information about the programme and only learnt of its existence after it had already expired. Many claim that the list of papers they were required to produce was impossible to comply with. This included a signed declaration by a midwife or seven witnesses who could testify that they were born in the country.
Many parents are still refused birth registration for their children. The majority of these children continue to be stateless.