18 October 2018 By Publikasi IIS

Exclusive Citizenship and the Statelessness of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic

Exclusive Citizenship and the Statelessness of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic

Statelessness is a condition in which a person has no citizenship and there are nearly 10 million people who are living under the condition. The causes of statelessness are varied, ranging from state disintegration, persecution, to the gap of citizenship policies. In the October issue of IIS Monthly Discussion, Anggita Triastiwi H—researcher of the Institute of International Studies from the cluster of Politics and Global Security—discussed the condition of statelessness and its implication towards the fulfillment of human rights.

Anggita specifically discussed citizenship problems experienced by Haitian descents in the Dominican Republic. The case is interesting due to its relations with the legal gaps in the citizenship status of the Dominicans Republic and Haiti as well as the existing campaign of anti-Haitianismo. This attributed from the history of colonialism experienced by the two countries. Despite being in one mainland, Hispaniola, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were colonized by two different countries with different colonial approach. France colonized Haiti with the aim of making the region a resource-producing region for other colonies due to the presence of slaves that were brought there as additional labor from Africa. On the other hand, Spain wanted to make the Dominican Republic a replica of the city of Santo Domingo.

When Haiti became the first country to gain its independence in Latin America and sought to make Hispaniola under its occupation, this became the starting point for the anti-Haitianismo sentiments in the Dominican Republic to emerge. The anti-Haitianismo campaign itself has taken place institutionally and ideologically since the presidency of Rafael Trujillo, the founding father of the Dominican Republic. The internalization process of anti-Haitianismo sentiments at that time was made as a narrative to support the independence of the Dominican Republic from the occupation of Haiti. The sentiment also represents the narrative that the Dominican Republic’s white (Spanish) descendants are superior to Haitians who are dominantly descendants of slaves and blacks.

The Constitutional Court’s decision in 2013 regarding denationalization and citizenship restoration and naturalization, elucidated the legal efforts of the Dominican Republic in giving limitations to those who deserve to be citizens.

“Here (Republic of Dominica), acquiring citizenship status has become a privilege. It’s no longer a right, “said Anggita.

Having an uncertain citizenship status has resulted in a humanitarian crisis in various levels. As happened to those who are unable to access higher education because they do not own complete documents. Thus, it is also difficult for them to get a job since they are being perceived as incompetent. Things that included in the category of structural violence like this occurred because of the lack of state protection against those who do not own citizenship status.

The problem also occurred due to the definition gap between what the international communities understood and what is understood by the state. All this time, citizenship is considered as an inherent right that is owned by each individual. Therefore, statelessness is inhumane.

However, the case in the Dominican Republic is different. In this case, the state as a sovereign entity has the right to give citizenship and determine who has the right to get it. Maintaining sovereignty is more preferred by the Dominican Republic rather than fulfilling the rights of citizenship for Haitian descents.

“At this point, there are two construction regarding citizenship that could not be collectively understood in the international level,” as explained by Anggita.

As thus, the role of international community in urging the protection of individuals without citizenship status has become urgent.


Writer: Novrisa Briliantina
Editor: Imas Indra Hapsari