IACHR Expresses Concern Over Pregnant Women Expelled from the Dominican Republic and Calls on State to Guarantee Access to Protection Mechanisms and Reproductive Health Services.

December 1, 2021

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over reports of expulsions of pregnant women from the Dominican Republic, especially those of Haitian origin or descent. In response, it urged the State to respect the principle of nonrefoulement and ensure effective protection for people in movement, particularly access to health services, regardless of their migration status.

The IACHR is extremely concerned by reports from civil society organizations claiming that migration authorities are allegedly carrying out migration control operations in hospitals that report large influxes of pregnant migrant women, mainly of Haitian origin or descent. The aim of these operations is to expel the women in question from the Dominican Republic, without taking into account their need for humanitarian protection from the context of institutional crisis, structural violence, and human rights violations that prevails in Haiti.

In the same vein, the United Nations System in the Dominican Republic expressed concern over the detention and deportation of pregnant women seeking or receiving care at health centers and hospitals. The IACHR noted that these expulsions expose pregnant women to serious violations of their rights to health, especially reproductive health.

Furthermore, according to information from civil society published on social media platforms, a Haitian woman was reportedly forced to leave the hospital where she was receiving medical care after giving birth and where her baby remained, after which she was transferred to the border at Belladère. According to the information available to the IACHR, she was allegedly detained for four days in the city of Haina before being reunited with her baby and the rest of her family. These events transpired despite the fact that General Migration Act No. 285-04 establishes that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never be detained during migration operations.

These actions have unfolded as part of a broader institutional context. On September 28, the National Migration Council allegedly adopted an interpretation of the Dominican Republic’s migration regulations that prevents any foreign person who implies an unreasonable burden on public finances from entering the country, including women who are at least six months pregnant. In addition, the IACHR acknowledged the announcement made by the National Migration Council on November 2 regarding a new audit of a total 220,000 people who have been regularized as part of the National Regularization Plan. These administrative decisions might generate exclusionary effects for the migrant population and additional obstacles to their access to essential rights and services, such as health and personal integrity.
In response, the IACHR recalled that migrants have the right to receive the same health care as the native-born population, including sexual and reproductive healthcare. States should therefore not prevent access to healthcare services on the basis of migration status or lack of identity documents. The IACHR also stressed that all migrants have the right to confidentiality while accessing healthcare services and medical care. As a consequence, it is prohibited for such services to inform or exchange information with migration authorities regarding the migration status of patients or their parents or to conduct migration control operations in or near hospitals.

In the same vein, Resolution 1/20 on Pandemics and Human Rights recommends that States refrain from implementing measures that could hinder, intimidate, or discourage people in movement from accessing COVID-19 response programs, services, and policies, such as migration control initiatives or acts of repressive in the vicinity of hospitals or shelters. The exchange of information with migratory authorities of a repressive nature is also prohibited.

In addition, the IACHR urged the State to implement Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking as a guide for its migration policies and initiatives. Specifically, it urged the State to refrain from expelling, returning, extraditing, informally transferring or surrendering, or placing at the borders of another country any person whose life or liberty might be in danger, regardless of their nationality. The Inter-American System of Human Rights deems that under Article 22(8) of the American Convention on Human Rights, the principle of nonrefoulement must apply to all people, even those who are not refugees and asylum seekers. Per this article, no person may be returned to the territory of another country where their life or freedom might be in danger or where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment. In the same vein, through Advisory Opinion 25/18 of May 30, 2018, the IA Court emphasized that the principle of nonrefoulement is a guarantee of various nonderogable human rights, since it is a measure whose purpose is to preserve the life, liberty, and integrity of the person it protects.

Finally, the IACHR noted that the principle of equality and nondiscrimination must be implemented through positive measures to reverse or modify existing discriminatory situations. To this end, the State must incorporate a gender perspective based on an intersectional approach to all measures relating to people in movement, so as to address the situations and needs of each population group, taking into account factors such as gender, age, diversity, disability, ethnic and racial origin, and class. In the same vein, in Advisory Opinion 18/2003, the IA Court underlined the need to implement measures that respect the indissoluble link between nondiscrimination and effective protection for people in movement.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 320/21

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