Many Haitians and people of Haitian descent are leaving the Dominican Republic after the passing of a residence permit application deadline. They now face the risk of deportation.
The Dominican Republic, which neighbours Haiti in the Caribbean, and has received Haitians for generations, who generally sought low-wage jobs in the country.
Starting from 2013, the Dominican Republic passed several constitutional amendments regarding the legal immigrants. The initial amendment, which was retroactive to 1929, limited citizenship to the children of legal immigrants or the children of Dominican and Haitian couples.
In 2014, the Dominican Republic eased the limitations by passing a law that restored the citizenship to people whose births could be verified from the national registry.
Also, Dominican officials say a proof that shows the migrants arrived in the republic before October 2011 and were either working or studying could grant them the right to stay.
However, the update in the immigration laws did not fix the problem for many Haitians who were born in the rural areas and struggled to obtain the necessary documents to prove their identity.
Many of them, who do not own birth certificates, fail to obtain necessary documents due to high fees and delays. Besides these struggles, there is no authority to give them assistance on the issue.
Meanwhile, Dominican-born people, including some that have never been to Haiti, could also be vulnerable if they do not manage to obtain the necessary documents.
Authorities estimate that there are 450,000 Haitian migrants and thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the republic, only a small number of them were granted residence permits. This may lead to mass deportations.
Although the Dominican officials announced mass deportations before the deadline last month, they now claim that repatriations will be conducted individually.
Following international outcry, the Dominican administration announced almost 55,000 people who were born in the the country or who have at least one parent who’s a legal resident will be granted citizenship.
However, many people are already leaving the country, fearing deportation.
“The main reason these people are leaving is because they don't want to endure a deportation and lose the meager belongings they've earned after many years and much sacrifice” said Pedro Cano, coordinator of the Jesuit Migrant Service in the Dominican border town of Jimani, to AP.