Peace with justice for stateless people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti

Peace with justice for stateless people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti

Stateless people are individuals who are not recognized as citizens by any country in the world, and consequently are denied basic human rights – rights that individuals often take for granted: right to health care, to education, to own property, to travel, to get a birth or death certificate, etc. Without protection from any state due to their lack of legal identity, stateless people are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, violence. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
WCC Statement on the Human Rights of Stateless People, November 8, 2013 

During the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Haitians crossed into the wealthier Dominican Republic to work in the sugar cane industry and to escape from poverty and political instability. In the Dominican Republic, they have faced discrimination and racism throughout the years. Recently, the Dominican government drew international outrage when it ended birthright citizenship for people born to undocumented Haitians in the country.  Because of that, there are still one hundred thousand of stateless peoples across the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, suffering the vulnerability of being deported into nowhere and living like there is no country for them. In the meantime, they share their everyday life with Dominican citizens in the border who also face marginalization.

Conflicts and quarrels are frequent between Dominicans and Haitians at the There is a significant migratory flow at the border, the largest flow of Haitians in the border strip, from Haitians to the Dominican Republic than from Dominicans in the Haitian strip. The quarrels and conflicts are provoked by rejection from Dominicans to Haitians, lawsuits, robberies, abuse against Haitians and neglect of the Haitian government for their fellow citizens, among other reasons.

Global Ministries´Partners fashion new possibilities that later would serve as the basis for overturning the law of “stateless people”. It would build a capacity to respond to disasters across country boundaries, and thus foster a new beginning to see one another as God sees us all, as beloved children. Social Services for the Dominican Churches (SSID, acronym in Spanish) encompasses work in health, environment, education, rights and justice, society, and emergency response. Through its project named Culture of Peace in the Border, SSID seeks to sensitize the key leadership of 30 border communities about new knowledge, new attitudes and new practices of solidarity coexistence, through team building, discussion of the situation and the development of a plan of activities to strengthen peace. Culture of Peace is a project that seeks a scenario in which Haitians and Dominicans approach to exchange experiences of daily life, which are then transformed, into a coexistence based on solidarity.

The first phase of the project is training. In this phase, SSID organized workshops with the technical team that will be monitoring the project in three regions of the country: Dajabón, San Juan de la Maguana, and Barahona. Out of an informal survey, they are collecting information on the current situation on the border and organizing peace culture teams. They are composed of 6 to 10 members. The teams are made up of men and women, of both nationalities (Dominican and Haitian). Among the groups, there are pastors, leaders, school teachers, and other community actors. SSID has trained more than 150 people so far and has promoted the creation of 30 Peace Teams, one per community. The peacebuilding teams will serve as a link for strengthening the relations of the Dominicans and Haitians to cover the project, focusing on the development of a culture of peace and coexistence of solidarity.

We are called to commit ourselves as peacebuilders on the Border, especially with stateless people. The Christian family, therefore, ought to take up the plight of stateless persons as this struggle reflects our cardinal universal principles and values: that a human being has the right to life, liberty and security; the right to education, equal protection under the law, and to be free from slavery and torture; the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and to freedom of opinion and expression; and the right to a nationality.