Detained by Dominican immigration officials in February 2001, Lucía François was not allowed to collect her two youngest children, ages four and six, before being deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her six months later, she had still not seen nor spoken to them. Unable to return to the Dominican Republic, where her children were born, and with no possibility of telephone contact, François was totally cut off from her two girls. "I haven't been able to talk to anyone from home," François told Human Rights Watch. "I don't know if they're dead or alive . . . . Every day, when I wake up, I'm thinking about my kids."
The country's daily flow of deportations follows a similar pattern. Suspected Haitians are targeted for deportation based on the color of their skin, and are given little opportunity to prove their legal status or their claim to citizenship. As a rule, people facing deportation from the Dominican Republic have no chance to contact their families, to collect their belongings, or to prepare for departure in any way. They are frequently dropped off at the Haitian border within a matter of hours after their initial detention, sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on their back.
The summary procedures in use during these deportations fall far short of the due process requirements of international law, specifically those outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights. The race-based selection of deportees violates international prohibitions on racial discrimination.
Questioned by Human Rights Watch as to how undocumented Haitians are identified, the subdirector for Haitian affairs of the Dominican government's migration department insisted that they can be spotted "by their way of living." "They're poorer than we are," he said. "They have terrible homes." Noting that Haitians also have "rougher skin," the subdirector declared that "they're much blacker than we are. They're easy to recognize." Further evidencing his trust in ethnic stereotypes, the subdirector explained that his department's goal was to stem the "invasion" of young Haitian delinquents: "the ones who act like they're in the Haitian capital, drinking and dancing."
Human Rights Watch joins a number of regional and international human rights bodies in calling on the Dominican Republic to improve its treatment of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. We make the following recommendations:
* Low-ranking migration and military officials should not be permitted to render final, on-the-spot deportation decisions. Pursuant to Law 95 and Regulation 279, such officials' initial deportability determinations should be subject to review by a hierarchical superior. Judicial review of these decisions should also be permitted, at least in cases in which a claim of Dominican citizenship is asserted.
* Dominican migration officials should not limit the opportunity to defend against deportation to the presentation of Dominican identity documents, since Dominicans of Haitian descent are frequently unable to obtain the identity documents due them. Dominican officials should also be required to question potential deportees regarding their status. Officials should ask questions such as: "Where were you born?"; "Do you have any identity documents?"; "Did you ever have any identity documents?"; "Did you ever try to apply for identity documents?"; "When did you come to the Dominican Republic? How?"
* The Dominican government should abide by the terms of the 1999 Protocol of Understanding between the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti on the Procedures for Repatriation. In particular, the Dominican government should avoid separating nuclear families; allow deportees to collect their personal belongings and retain their identity documents; provide each deportee with a copy of his or her order of deportation; and give Haitian authorities advance notice of repatriations.
* Military officials should not be permitted to conduct deportations independent of trained migration officials. Their role in deportations should be an auxiliary one, limited to providing transportation and logistical support.
* The Dominican government should ensure humane conditions of detention for all deportees, providing sufficient food, sanitary facilities, and separate accommodations for immigration detainees and convicted criminals. Conditions of detention should conform to international and regional standards, including the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention.
Citizenship and Proof of Dominican Identity
* The Dominican government should take immediate and concrete steps to provide identity documents to each of the many thousands of Dominican individuals of Haitian descent who have been unable to obtain proof of Dominican citizenship.
* Dominican civil registry officials should not require the parents of children born in the Dominican Republic to present Dominican cédulas (identity cards) in order to obtain birth certificates for their children. To ensure that officials stop imposing this requirement, the Central Electoral Board should issue a directive to this effect. It should also train registry officials regarding the eligibility of children of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic to Dominican identity documents.
* The Central Electoral Board should issue a directive to all hospitals informing hospital staff that they should issue maternity papers for all children born in their facilities, regardless of whether the children's parents are documented or undocumented.
* The Central Electoral Board should eliminate the requirement that a late applicant for Dominican nationality documentation must obtain certifications from all fourteen official registries, verifying that he or she was not already registered in another district.
* The Central Electoral Board should issue a directive cautioning civil registry officials against allowing racial discrimination to taint decisions regarding the provision of identity documents.
* The Dominican government should launch a public awareness campaign to invite the parents of undocumented children to send them to school.
* The Haitian government should take steps to ensure that its citizens are provided Haitian identity documents, in accordance with the terms of Protocol of Understanding signed with the Dominican government in December 1999.
* U.N. agencies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) should provide technical and financial support to the Dominican government to encourage it to bring its treatment of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians into conformity with international standards. They should coordinate their activities with the local Dominican and Haitian nongovernmental organizations whose work on these issues is crucial.
* The International Labour Organization (ILO), specifically its International Migration Branch, should assist the Dominican government in reforming its legislation, policies and practices relating to labor migration.
* Representatives of donor and other governments should raise the issue of the Dominican Republic's treatment of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians in their bilateral meetings. They should press the Dominican government to bring its relevant legislation, policies and practices into conformity with international standards.