Commissioners: Rosa Maria Ortiz, Rose Marie Antoine, James Carvallo, Felipe Gonzales.
Petitioners: Genaro Rincón / Gregoria Corporan / Reemberto Pichardo Juan / Josefina Juan Pichardo’s widow / Manuel de Jesús Dandre / María Martínez
State: Dominican Republic
On March 24, 2014, Petitioners came before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to protest the lack of rights the Dominican Republic affords Haitian migrant workers. Petitioners argued that workers’ enjoyment of rights should not be tied to whether the workers are legally or illegally in the country, noting that the regulations issued by the Dominican Congress protect national and immigrant workers in the same manner. Despite extensive regulations, however, the rights of the migrant workers are constantly restricted, especially when it comes to obtaining a decent job and a fair salary. Such place migrant workers at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the general Dominican population. Workers perish in the “Bateys”, due to the lack of healthcare and food, after having worked in the sugarcane fields for several years.
Haitian migrants have worked in the Dominican Republic since the early 1900s after a treaty between Dominican Republic and Haiti. Currently, an estimated 75,000 workers have reached retirement age, though only a small percentage receives retirement payments. The largest concern the Petitioners expressed was the lack of documents of the Haitian workers, limiting their ability to claim retirement, obtain decent housing, obtain healthcare, perform commercial transactions, and find work with benefits. Petitioners argued that the Dominican Republic has failed to recognize the right of citizenship to the sons and daughters of the Haitian migrant workers, regardless of time the workers have lived in the country.
With their concerns raised, the Petitioners asked the State to: provide the due documentation to the Haitians who have worked in the Dominican Republic; to recognize the Haitian workers’ children who were born in Dominican Republic as legitimate citizens; and, to follow the International norms, including the International Labor Organization Conventions and the decisions by the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as well as the sentence issued by the Inter-American Court in the Yean y Bosico case.
The State reiterated the Constitutional commitment to protecting the dignity of all persons living in Dominican Republic. Moreover, the State noted that Law 285-04, enacted in 2011, provided specific legislation regarding the legal status of migrant workers, and guaranteed protection against any discrimination of the workers. The State also affirmed that, following the implementation of this law, immigrants with illegal status will see their situation legalized and fully documented, allowing them to access work and the due benefits. According to the State, through the Ministry of Labor, the Dominican government has taken steps to assist in the process of documenting the workers. For example, one of the steps taken has been lending local offices to the Haitian government to install posts where Haitian citizens can obtain documentation. Additionally, the State commented that it plans to provide a new type of visa for migrant workers as well as foreign students in the near future.
Commissioners showed concern regarding potential violations, noting that one of the Petitioners was unable to attend the hearing given the State’s failure to resolve her legal situation before her trip. Commissioner Gonzalez commended the State for the new initiatives for documenting workers and giving them the appropriate visas. However, the Commissioner emphasized that a clear distinction between current migrant workers and actual Haitian descent Dominican citizens should exist to avoid classifying citizens under immigrant worker status. Moreover, both Commissioners Gonzalez and Antoine showed concerns regarding the recent massive deportations executed without previous notice. Finally, Commissioner Antoine asked the State to keep in mind the international labor rights that should apply to all workers, especially when dealing with migrant workers who have special vulnerabilities. The Petitioner finally remarked that the Dominican Constitution is an aspirational text; however, an important gap still exists between what the Constitution holds and the actual practice.