Washington, D.C. May 18, 2020
The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights join with Dominican civil society to express our concern about the challenges that COVID-19 represents for those in the Dominican Republic and, in particular, for those whose pre-existing situation of vulnerability is heightened in the current context.
Those in a situation of greater vulnerability because of COVID-19 include the thousands of Dominicans who have been denationalized; people who are stateless or at risk of statelessness; and migrants and refugees, among them hundreds of Venezuelans who have had to flee their country. Many Haitian migrants, as well as denationalized Dominicans, live in the bateyes and other poor and informal communities that lack many of the basic services that exist in other areas, such as running water, electricity, and adequate health and sanitation services.
Access to essential state services is essential at this time. Although almost six years have passed since Law 169-14 was enacted, many Dominicans who have been denationalized still do not have access to their Dominican identity documents. Without these documents, their access to health, social insurance, and other state social protection services that are essential now more than ever is restricted. This also applies more broadly to migrants who do not have residence permits or regular status in the country.
In the face of this pandemic, and recognizing the huge challenge it presents for the Dominican Republic, it is important that everyone has access to the same standards and protections for their health. For this reason, we join the call of the Dominican organizations to the State to "take measures to guarantee everyone in the Dominican Republic, without discrimination, minimum and worthy conditions of subsistence and join in the task of combating the spread of the coronavirus" and to recognize the Dominican State for suspending arrests for deportation purposes as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the negative impact on the migrant population.
One of the best ways to ensure an effective response is to directly involve the affected people and communities. In line with the evidence-based methods and collaboration with civil society suggested by global health actors and organizations working with the most-at-risk populations, we encourage the Dominican Republic to continue to involve Dominican organizations that accompany these communities in order to have a comprehensive vision of COVID-19’s impact.
As various United Nations agencies have pointed out, as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it is of vital importance that all stateless persons, migrants and refugees have the same access as the rest of the population to health services, not only because it is a right they themselves are entitled to but also, because this "will serve to protect public health and curb the worldwide spread of COVID-19."
At this critical moment, we express our solidarity with all the people already affected by COVID-19 within the Dominican Republic and we encourage the government of the Dominican Republic to guarantee access to tests and treatment for everyone in the country and extend economic measures to vulnerable groups and communities that are most at risk.