‘Ghost citizens’ in the Dominican Republic

A bright young girl prevented from enrolling in high school, a teenager suffering from an oil burn turned away from hospital, a cleaning lady about to lose the only income she has to support her family, a human rights activist unable to travel out of his town.

These are some of the tens of thousands of Dominicans denied their basic human rights since a 2013 ruling  stripped nationality from anyone born to undocumented foreign parents or grandparents since 1929.

Without papers, these citizens are turned into “ghosts”, unable to access basic services such as education and health, and without the possibility to earn a decent living.

Merida, 42, is one of them. She was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents who were not allowed to register her birth because they had no documents themselves.  Merida suffers from a heart condition, but every time she goes to the doctor she is refused treatment because she does not have any identity papers. She buys medicine using the prescription of a friend who has a similar condition, but Merida believes she needs to change medications as those are causing her side effects. 

With the stroke of a pen, authorities in the Dominican Republic have effectively wiped four generations of Dominicans off the map

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

Authorities not doing enough

Authorities in the Dominican Republic claim they have already taken enough measures to solve the problem and that no one in the Dominican Republic lacks a nationality. But an Amnesty International study has proved otherwise.

The report shows that the authorities’ solution to the issue – a six-month programme which expired on 1 February 2015 – has proven inadequate for many, who continue to have no possibility of accessing the nationality they are entitled to.

Hundreds say they never received information about the programme and only learned of its existence after it had already expired. Many claim that the list of papers they were required to produce was impossible to comply with. For example, in some instances they were asked to present a legalised certificate from the midwife that delivered them, or a written statement by seven witnesses that could testify they were actually born in the country. 

Hiding away from this drama by saying the problem does not exist will not make it go away

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

This situation is affecting me as a person, psychologically

Adonis Peguero Louis, born in the Dominican Republic in 1994 to Haitians parents.

Forced to work as a slave

Marisol (not her real name) is a young Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent. Neither she nor her brothers and sisters were registered at birth, as their parents had no formal identification. When they died, Marisol was 10 years old and had no choice but to become a domestic worker with a wealthy family in Santo Domingo.

The family promised to send her to school but instead forced her to work 15 hours a day. They beat her and never allowed her attend school. She could not apply for the naturalization plan as, by the time she had heard about it, it had already expired. The family she works for as a cleaner is now threatening to sack her, afraid of the sanctions they might face for employing an undocumented person. With no identity papers, Marisol cannot register her children either.

“I hoped my children could have a better future, but without identity documents it is not going to be possible,” she told Amnesty International.

I hoped my children could have a better future, but without identity documents it is not going to be possible

Young Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International said:

“Authorities in the Dominican Republic must urgently find a long-term solution to this crisis. A crucial first step would be a simple and accessible procedure, without a time limit, for the recognition of Dominican nationality to all those deprived of it by the 2013 ruling.” .

Dominican “ghosts”

Giselle Mateodeli, born in the Dominican Republic in 1979 to Haitian parents, has been denied a nationality. “It is extremely serious not to have documents. I need to work for my son, I need to have a source of income. I feel powerless because I am not able to do anything in life”.
Jessica, 14, born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, is not allowed to study. “I would feel so sad if my daughter could not keep studying. I would like her to go to the university, to have a better future,” her father said.
China with her sister Chinola and their mother (from right to left). China, 15, was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. After she badly burned her arm with cooking oil, she was turned away from her local hospital because she did not have identity papers.
Rosa, 16, was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. Her birth was never registered as her parents did not have identity documents, which means her child will not be registered either. “I would like to continue studying and working. I would like my child to have a future better than mine”.
Altagracia, Maria-Michel and Rosana Modesami are three sisters born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. “I am just sitting at home. I don’t do anything because they don’t accept me in school. I would like to be a teacher, I like giving classes to students,” Rosana said.