WASHINGTON (AP) — The Dominican Republic on Wednesday rejected an offer by the Organization of American States to organize talks with Haiti on resolving a tense dispute between the two neighbors over citizenship and legal residency.
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro proposed that the Washington-based organization plan a meeting between the Caribbean countries that share the island of Hispaniola “to find paths of solution to the present difficulties,” among other recommendations.
But in Santo Domingo, Dominican Foreign Minister Andres Navarro said his government never requested or requires OAS mediation. He said the Dominican Republic is ready to resume bilateral talks once Haiti “abandons its attitude to discredit the Dominican Republic.”
Navarro and other Dominican authorities have asserted that Haiti is spearheading an international campaign to make them look bad.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the OAS, welcomed the secretary-general’s offer and said he would appoint a representative to resume talks under the guidance of the regional organization.
The Dominican Republic has been under international scrutiny for immigration policies that tend to affect mostly Haitians and people of Haitian descent, who tend to be darker skinned than most Dominicans and can find themselves victims of racial discrimination.
In September 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that children born in the country to non-citizens did not qualify for automatic citizenship because their migrant parents were “in transit.” Most of those affected were Haitians.
Dominican officials created a program for people who were born in the country but never obtained a birth certificate or other identification. Before a February deadline, only some 9,000 people applied for the program that let them register as foreigners and become naturalized citizens.
Rights activists fear that Dominican-born people are vulnerable to mass deportations as foreigners. The Dominican government denies this.
The situation has strained relations between the two countries. They have long had a fraught history, with generations of Haitians crossing into the Dominican Republic to take low-wage jobs. The migrants have encountered periodic crackdowns.