U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

There were 631 known refugees in the Dominican Republic at the end of 1999, 624 of whom were Haitians. During the year, 46 persons applied for asylum in the Dominican Republic, including 27 from Haiti and 13 from Cuba. Of these, 7 received refugee status.

Asylum Procedure

The Dominican Republic is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. Asylum procedures are based on Presidential Decree No. 1569 of 1983, which created the National Commission for Refugees (NCR), and Decree No. 2330 of 1984, which established regulations to govern it.

According to the decrees, the NCR adjudicates asylum claims. Asylum seekers submit applications to the National Office for Refugees (NOR) within the Directorate of Migration, which became operational in 1999. The NOR is responsible for receiving asylum claims, issuing documentation to asylum seekers, and making refugee status determinations. Prior to 1999, these functions were the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Upon receipt of the asylum application, the NOR issues the asylum seeker a 60 day, renewable permit for up to six months while the case is pending. The NOR refers all asylum cases to an NCR technical subcommission, which makes a first-instance refugee status determination within 30 days.

Asylum applicants rejected in the first instance have seven days to seek an NCR review. The NCR also informs UNHCR of its decision and allows UNHCR to seek review, also within seven days. The NCR itself carries out the review and makes a final status determination. Pending that decision, asylum seekers cannot work.

There is no formal procedure for appeal or judicial review.

Restrictive Measures

The Dominican Republic generally does not detain asylum seekers, although the Directorate of Migration does have its own detention cells in common prisons for undocumented aliens who have not registered asylum claims.

Approximately one million Haitians live and work in the Dominican Republic, although precise statistics are unavailable because the number is constantly changing.

Relatively few Haitians, even among those who have lived in the Dominican Republic for many years, have proper documentation. Births of children born to Haitians in the Dominican Republic are often unregistered either in the Dominican Republic or Haiti. Consequently, many children and grandchildren of Haitians in the Dominican Republic have no recognized nationality.

There is no way to determine how many Haitians might credibly fear persecution if returned to Haiti. Reportedly, many Haitians are deported without a meaningful opportunity to establish refugee claims or to show otherwise that they have a legal right to remain in the Dominican Republic.

In the second half of 1999, the military intensified its efforts to forcibly return undocumented Haitians, resulting in the deportation some 15,000 in several weeks. There were credible reports of separation of families and mistreatment during this period. In response to criticism from the Haitian government and from the Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, in December the Dominican Republic formally agreed to be more careful to protect human rights when returning Haitian nationals. In exchange, Haiti agreed to step up its own border patrols.


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