CARICOM suspends DR’s application: Haiti Lobbies Successfully

The Caribbean Community has suspended the Dominican Republic’s application to join its regional economic bloc and called on the country’s leaders to urgently “take immediate, credible steps” to stave off a potential humanitarian crisis triggered by the recent citizenship ruling. The decision was announced in a Caricom meeting held in Trinidad & Tobago. The Caricom leaders were responding to a petition made by their member Haiti.

The decision came with a formal condemnation of the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court ruling of 23 September that upheld a 2005 Supreme Court of Justice judgment that illegal residents and their children do not automatically qualify for citizenship despite having been born in the Dominican Republic. The ruling orders the Dominican government to implement a national regularization plan to legalize all foreign residents in the country with major reductions in paperwork, time and cost for those adhering to the plan that should have been implemented in 2004. As a result of the delays, hundreds of thousands of people are living as an underground population. The rising high social and security costs have motivated the Medina administration to seek to resolve the immigration chaos.

The decision came with a formal condemnation of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruling of 23 September that upheld a 2005 Supreme Court of Justice judgment that illegal residents and their children do not automatically qualify for citizenship despite having been born in the Dominican Republic. The ruling orders the Dominican government to implement a national regularization plan to legalize all foreign residents in the country with major reductions in paperwork, time and cost for those adhering to the plan that should have been implemented in 2004. As a result of the delays, hundreds of thousands of people are living as an underground population. The rising high social and security costs have motivated the Medina administration to seek to resolve the immigration chaos.

Nevertheless, the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) recent release following the Trinidad meeting “condemns the abhorrent and discriminatory ruling of September 23, 2013, of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic on nationality which retroactively strips tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship rendering them stateless and with no recourse to appeal.”

The Haiti government has lobbied aggressively for maintaining the present state of affairs and for citizenship for Haitian immigrants. On the other hand, the Martelly administration has cranked down on Dominican imports. If the Dominican Republic were admitted to Caricom, Haiti would have to allow free trade. Local authorities recently lifted a section of a border wall in their attempt to charge taxes on imports carried by Haitian merchants that cross the border on market days.

Moreover, Caribbean expert Ivan Ogando, Caribbean expert commented recently that 12 years had gone past when President Danilo Medina requested the renewal of the request for Caricom membership. The DR primarily buys natural gas from Trinidad & Tobago. “However, while this may be a positive thing, there is a lot of room for skepticism and the DR accession to the group is far from being a done deal given the fact that the process is quite long and not all Caricom members are convinced of the feasibility of a Dominican Membership in the short, middle or even long term. It seems like the perception that the DR’s goods could flood Caricom’s market is still quite strong and more efforts should be done to identify and exploit the potential complementarities that enhance the productivity of the region,” he writes.

Ogando writes: “Furthermore, it does not make sense to invest time and political resources planning an accession when significant commitments between both parties remain pending implementation. For example, the implementation of Art. 238 of the EPA remains a thorny issue and advancing on the implementation and coverage of the bilateral trade agreement has proven quite difficult and frustrating. It is obvious that if they cannot agree in the implementation of these things it would be far more difficult to agree on the commitments that a full membership imply.”

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