December 10, 2015

YES,THEY EXIST! End Statelessness in the Dominican Republic!


Ramona Rellis Feliste (pictured on left) was born in 1982 in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. Her parents did not register her birth immediately and when they tried, 12 years after she was born, they were denied registration because the civil registry officer did not want to accept his workplace identity card (ficha) as a valid document. Ramona has five children, none of whom was registered at birth because she has no documents. Her older daughter, who is 18, has a one-year old child, and was not given a proof-of-birth certificate for him at the hospital because she has no documents. “I feel bad as I couldn’t register my children. I don’t want them to leave school as I had to do”, she told Amnesty International.

Tens of thousands individuals became stateless in the Dominican Republic in September 2013. The highest court in the country decided that even though these individuals were born and raised for generations in the country, they should not have been Dominicans because their parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents, who were undocumented, came from the neighbouring country of Haiti, with which the Dominican Republic shares the same island in the Caribbean.

Their lives are a succession of frustration, lost opportunities, and the denial of their rights as human beings. Without nationality, they have no documents nor rights. Without documents, children do not have access to education or have to stop studying. They cannot go to university and turn their dreams of a better life into reality.

Stateless people have difficulty accessing healthcare. They can’t travel and are forced into informal jobs. Women are at increased risk of violence or other abuse, and have little to no opportunity to secure justice in court. The lives of all those who remain stateless are in limbo.

Stateless people are people who legally do not exist.

The Dominican authorities continue to deny that anyone is stateless in the Dominican Republic, yet Amnesty International and local human rights groups have documented dozens of individuals in a situation of statelessness, and there are possibly dozens of thousands more.

Join Amnesty International and tell President Medina of the Dominican Republic, YES, THEY EXIST!