The Dominican Republic is ready to resume deportations of people without legal residency from the Caribbean country. Up to 100,000 of those concerned are from Haiti, its western neighbor on the island of Hispaniola.
Non-citizens in the Domican Republic have until Wednesday to apply for legal status to stay in the country.
Authorities suspended deportations of people without legal residency a year ago to allow them to register. But only a few of the estimated 500,000 Haitians in the country have completed the paperwork in order to qualify for legal residency.
Hundreds of people have been standing in line outside ministry offices in the capital, Santo Domingo (photo) trying to submit the necessary papers ahead of the 7 pm local time Wednesday deadline ahead of deportations due to begin on Thursday.
Interior Minister Ramon Fadul said about 250,000 people have started the application process but only 10,000 had met all the requirements for legal residency. So far, only about 300 have actually received permits.
Many of the applicants said they did not have the necessary papers to complete the applications. Some employers have not provided workers with documentation to prove they have been in the country long enough to qualify for residency. Also, the Haitian authorities have been slow to provide birth certificates and other documents, for which it has been charging high fees.
Sixty-six year old Molaire Cadon came across the border as a 13-year-old to work in Dominican sugar cane fields. He said he has been waiting for months and gone many times to the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo trying to get his birth certificate. "They always tell me it will come but they give me nothing," he said.
While officials have said there will be no mass round-ups, 12 buses have been prepared and processing centers opened along the border with Haiti to expedite repatriations.
Defense minister William Muñoz Delgado called on troops guarding the border with Haiti to act within the law in the repatriation process. "The eyes of international organizations and civil society insitutions in the country are on us" he said on Tuesday.
The Dominican government launched the program following international criticism of a 2013 ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that people born in the country to non-citizens since 1929 did not qualify for citizenship.
The government has announced plans to restore nationality to more than 50,000 people who were born in the Dominican Republic and who were enrolled in a civil registry.
jm/bw (AP, EFE)