Over 4,400 volunteers have served in the Dominican Republic. According to CNN's Mariano Castillo, three former Peace Corps/Dominican Republic Country Directors and 560 former volunteers have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the United States suspend military aid to the Dominican government over human rights abuses and a crackdown on Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. This high level advocacy from former volunteers shows how connected they remain to the country in which they served, and their concern for the human rights of all people living within its borders. The full article follows.
The government of the Dominican Republic recently passed a nationality law which, by no means perfect, represents a step forward in addresssing statelessness. The main difficulty now lies in its full implementation across the country. Below is an article by Associated Press writers Ezequiel Abiu Lopez and Danica Coto that notes both positive and negative reactions to the nationality law.
Sonia Pierre, Dominican human rights activist of Haitian descent, has died of heart failure at the age of 48. She was a passionate advocate for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic – many of whom are stateless, not being recognized by the Dominican Republic or Haiti. She will be missed. The organization which she founded, El Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitiana or MUDHA, continues her work. An article on her passing follows below.
Imagine being born in a country that does not recognize you and the possibility of being deported to a country that you do not know. This is the reality for many Dominicans of Haitian descent throughout the Dominican Republic. Steve Sapienza’s documentary “Stranded: The Stateless Haitians” explores how Dominicans of Haitian descent struggle with government discrimination in the only country they have ever known. Earlier blogs on statelessness in the Dominican Republic and on the complicated relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are also available.
Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Justice and Human Rights recently completed an advocacy mission to the Dominican Republic. The racism against those with darker skin can be so intense that travelling there feels like going back in time. Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent are routinely denied citizenship, making them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. While meeting with government officials, Kennedy urged them to work with local human rights defenders such as Sonia Pierre, who despite winning the 2006 RFK Human Rights Award, has been treated not as a hero, but a threat. Her trip summary is copied blow.
The relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic could be described as schizophrenic. On one hand, the heads of both governments get along well. This has opened up opportunities for cross border cooperation in health, business, and infrastructure. For example, the Dominican government now sells subsidized propane to Haiti. Recently, the Dominican President even called for the Ibero-American Community to admit Haiti as a gesture of solidarity. However, the mistreatment of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic prevents both countries from becoming less like adversaries and more like neighbors.
Imagine being born in a country that doesn't recognize you and the possibility of being deported to one that you don't even know. This is a very real possibility for individuals of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Being denied the right to nationality has serious implications ranging from denial of health care, the right to vote, or even the right to work and own property. Human rights activists in the DR such as Sonia Pierre have put their lives on the line to make things better. The issue is, thankfully, receiving more publicity than it ever has before. Below is an article by the New York Times which describes what statelessness is as well as a piece by Refugees International and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center which explains what can be done to remedy this situation.