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Dominican court puts citizenship of Haitian descendants in question

Oct. 24, 2013 at 4:11 PM

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The Dominican Republic's highest court has declared children of undocumented Haitian migrants are not Dominican citizens, jeopardizing the status of thousands.

The court ordered authorities Sept. 23 to audit birth records dating back to 1929, to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship -- a sweeping move the United Nations high commissioner for refugees warned "may deprive tens of thousands of people of (their) nationality."

An estimated 200,000 people born in the Dominican Republic have Haitian parents, the last national census indicated. Haitian immigrants occupy the lowest rung of society, typically living in urban slums or on sugar plantations and performing the most menial of work, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The newspaper said the court ruling complicates a long and sometimes violent relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share a Caribbean island.

"I am Dominican," said Ana Maria Belique, 27, who was born in the Dominican Republic, has never lived elsewhere and cannot apply for college or renew her passport because her birth certificate is no longer accepted. "I don't know Haiti. This is my home."

Laura Bingham of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a public policy organization based in New York, called the court's action "remarkably sweeping in terms of numbers, over 200,000 stateless, a staggering figure."

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