Haiti and Dominican Republic resume talks on controversial Constitutional Court ruling

CARACAS, Venezuela– Haiti and the Dominican Republic have agreed to establish a joint commission to discuss the migration problem caused by a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic that has the effect of rendering stateless, thousands of people of Haitian descent residing in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.

Haitian President Michel Martelly  and Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina met on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and of PetorCaribe. The meeting was chaired by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“I announce the creation of a high-level committee with representatives of both sides to address various issues on the bilateral agenda,” Maduro said, adding that the joint commission would comprise five representatives each from the two countries.

He said Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been invited as observers.

Maduro said the proposed commission would address issues regarding trade, migration, environment, security and the border. The purpose of such an initiative is to find a just, proper and balanced solution through which the interests and rights of all parties are protected.

Last month, CARICOM said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping following the Constitutional Court ruling.

Leaders of the three-member CARICOM Bureau, comprising host country Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti, said the 15-member regional grouping would also seek to raise the court ruling with several bodies including the Association of Caribbean States, the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) as well as maintaining “our interest and active participation at the Organization of American States (OAS).

On September 23, the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

But in defending the ruling, Dominican Republic officials said it ends uncertainty for children of Haitian immigrants, allowing them to apply for residency and eventually for citizenship.

The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on authorities in Santo Domingo to ensure that the ruling did not leave persons of Haitian descent in “constitutional limbo”.

A United Nations-supported study, released this year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

However, the Government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to Medina on the issue, had informed his CARICOM colleagues that quiet diplomacy would not get the Dominican Republic to change its position.

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