From the 1920s, during the dictatorships of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Haitians began to migrate to the Dominican Republic as sugarcane cutters in stateowned or private companies. Initially, this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but as time passed Haitians settled down indefinitely in the slums (bateyes) close to the plantations.
Between 15,000 and 30,000 Haitians were killed in the massacre known as the ‘Parsley Massacre’ (Masacre de Perejil) during Trujillo’s dictatorship. Their bodies were thrown into the River Dajabón, which borders the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The Migration Law 95/39 was approved and its rules of procedure limited the period that someone could be ‘in transit’ to a maximum of 10 days (i.e. anyone who stayed in the Dominican Republic for less than 10 days could have been considered ‘in transit’).
The Dominican Constitution allowed nationality passed by jus solis with two exceptions: (a) people in transit; (b) legitimate children of diplomats.
The new Migration Law 285/04 considered temporary foreign workers and undocumented migrants as foreigners ‘in transit’, preventing their children from acquiring Dominican nationality. It also created a separate registry for children born in the Dominican Republic to foreign mothers who do not have a regular migration status (Article 28).
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued judgment on the case Yean and Bosico vs República Dominicana, finding that the Dominican Republic had applied discriminatory treatment when granting nationality and left both girls stateless, thus violating, among others, their rights to nationality and to equal protection of the law.
The Central Electoral Board stopped issuing birth certificates and copies of birth certificates to Dominicans born in Dominican territory to foreign parents (Circular 017/2007).
The Central Electoral Board established the new registry described under Migration Law 285/04, commonly called the ‘Book of Foreigners’, in Resolution 02/07.
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the Independent Expert on minority issues visited the Dominican Republic.
The Central Electoral Board approved Resolution 12, which reinforced internal procedures established in March 2007.
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the Independent Expert on minority issues published their report after their joint country visit. They concluded: ‘[T]here is a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination in Dominican society, generally affecting blacks and particularly such groups as black Dominicans, Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitians'.
A new Constitution was approved in the Dominican Republic. For the first time in the country, the Constitution denied the automatic acquisition of the Dominican nationality to children of irregular migrants.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that the Dominican Republic to:
‘adopt the necessary measures to prevent, diminish and eliminate the conditions and attitudes which cause or perpetuate formal or de facto discrimination against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. It also urges the State party to ensure birth registration with regard to these groups and guarantee their economic, social and cultural rights. It urges the State party to reconsider the regulations relating to the citizenship of children of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, in particular, by ensuring a non-discriminatory access to the Dominican nationality, irrespective of date of birth.’
The Central Electoral Board started reissuing birth certificates and copies of birth certificates (Circular 32/2011).
The Dominican Constitutional Court issued judgment TC0168/13. It retroactively deprived hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality (covering the period 1929 to 2010), leaving them stateless.
UNHCR officially reacted to the ruling of the Constitutional Court:
'UNHCR is deeply concerned by a recent ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic that could render as stateless countless Dominicanborn persons of Haitian descent, many of whom have lived in the Dominican Republic for decades. Due to its retroactive effect, this ruling has the potential to affect tens of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic.'
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights expressed concern about the Dominican Constitutional Court judgment TC0168/13 as:
‘the ruling retroactively modified legislation that was in effect from 1929 to 2010, and thus would strip Dominican citizenship from tens of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic. In many cases, these individuals could be left stateless, which violates the American Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, this judgment has a disproportionate effect on individuals of Haitian descent.’
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights visited the Dominican Republic. It concluded that:
‘the Constitutional Court’s ruling implies an arbitrary deprivation of nationality. The ruling has a discriminatory effect, given that it primarily impacts Dominicans of Haitian descent, who are Afrodescendant persons; strips nationality retroactively; and leads to statelessness when it comes to those individuals who are not considered by any State to be their own nationals, under their laws.’
At least 29 states recommended the Dominican Republic to secure the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent at the Universal Periodic Review of this country.
The Dominican government passed law 169/14, a ‘specific scheme for people born in Dominican territory registered irregularly in the Dominican Civil Registry and for naturalization’, as a way to solve the crisis created by the Constitutional Court judgment from September 2013. It was commonly known as the ‘Naturalization Law’.
Law 169/14 entered into force. The rules of procedure divided the community into two groups. Group A were those already registered and thus affected by the judgment: for this group, it determined that their nationality should be restored automatically. Group B were those who were never registered in the Dominican Civil Registry: for this group, it detailed a registration procedure to be completed in 90 days.
The government extended the registration time limit for Group B by a further 90 days. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued their judgment on the Benito Tilde Mendez vs Dominican Republic case. It ruled that the Dominican Constitutional Court judgment was discriminatory and in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The Dominican Constitutional Court issued judgment TC0256/14, declaring the state’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights invalid.
The Naturalization Law registration period ended on 2nd February 2015, with a total of 8,755 people registered out of 53,000, according to the Dominican authorities’ figures.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for the first time mentioned the Dominican Republic in his opening statement of the 30th session of the Human Rights Council:
‘My office also continues to follow up the Dominican Republic’s deportations of people of Haitian descent. I continue to urge the authorities to ensure that those with a valid claim to remain are allowed to do so, and that any deportation is carried out in line with international human rights standards.’
The UNHCR publisheed a report on statelessness to celebrate the first anniversary of the #IBelong campaign. It included the Dominican Republic as one of the countries with the highest number of stateless people in the world.
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights publishes a report on the human rights situation in the Dominican Republic. The Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, under whose mandate is the protection of the rights of stateless persons, Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, said:
"The situation of statelessness generated by judgement 168/13 that has not yet been completely corrected after the measures adopted by the Dominican State, is of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas."