The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti share many things—a background of slavery, oppression, dictators, and the island of Hispaniola. Yet, in the DR, a history of racism and prejudice runs deep toward their Haitian neighbors who were often recruited for undesirable work in the DR’s sugarcane fields. In 1932, the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo massacred over 10,000 Haitian sugarcane workers in an attempt to ‘whiten’ the country. Still, Dominicans of Haitian descent have long roots in the DR, and contribute to the economy and society alongside their fellow citizens. But because registration and certification of births were often done on an arbitrary basis, proof of birth in the country has been difficult to verify.
Without official proof of a Syrian father, exiled Syrian children are at a heightened risk of statelessness, which could make their ability to access education, health care and social services less likely, and could prove a barrier to returning and taking up Syrian citizenship, if and when the possibility arises.
“We must not forget the millions of stateless people whose dreams of nationality will never come to fruition. They also need our help to enjoy basic human rights right now,” remarked UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in 2007. Yet the international community often highly overlooks statelessness and the adverse implications of such status. While many individuals tend to take the legal acquisition of a nationality for granted, the acquirement of nationality can heavily dictate the quality of life for an individual.