Haiti shocked at Dominican Republic citizenship move

Haiti voiced grave concern Wednesday after neighboring Dominican Republic said it would deny citizenship to more than 250,000 offspring of undocumented Haitians.

The two nations share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas and the Dominican Republic to the east is not rich, but significantly better off.

Last week, Santo Domingo decided that children born to Haitians who were in the country illegally or in transit are not entitled to Dominican citizenship, retroactive to 1929.

Many Haitians work seasonally on Dominican sugar and other fields, and they long understood their Dominican-born children to have local citizenship rights.

Haiti called its ambassador home for consultations and on Wednesday Haitian officials expressed their dismay to the Dominican ambassador in Port-au-Prince, Ruben Sillie.

"We officially expressed our concern to Dominican authorities and their ambassador," Foreign Minister Pierre Richard Casimir told AFP by phone.

"We are completely opposed to this decision since, if it takes effect, it will have serious implications for Dominicans of Haitian descent."

Haitian groups and political parties have voiced shock at what they called their government's slow response to a major bilateral issue.

The Dominican Republic in its 2012 census counted 458,000 Haitian immigrants among its 10 million inhabitants.

The Dominican army in the past 13 months has deported 47,000 Haitians who were in the country illegally, Haitian officials said last week.