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24,000 affected by citizenship ruling: Dominican gov't

SANTO DOMINGO--Government officials announced Thursday that more than 24,000 people born in the Dominican Republic to foreigners have not been properly registered, meaning they could lose their citizenship under a recent Constitutional Court decision.

The Electoral Council released its findings after spending eight days combing through 60,000 birth record ledgers, saying that human rights groups erred in estimating that the court decision would affect some 200,000 residents, many of whose families have lived in the country for decades.

“I believe these statistics dispel many myths and a lot of information that was not consistent with the truth,” Electoral Council President Roberto Rosario said.

Rights groups criticized the council's figure, saying it deeply understates the potential impact.

The 24,392 people the government identified includes only those listed on the civil register, said Santiago Canton, director of Partners for Human Rights at the U.S.-based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. Missing are people who have never registered or have been prevented from doing so, he said.

“It is known that thousands more have been denied access to the civil registry in the first place,” said Canton, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

He also repeated earlier criticism of the ruling itself. “It doesn't matter whether you discriminate against 24,000 or 100,000, it is still a blatant case of discrimination and arbitrary conduct,” he said.

Canton said the government should publicly recognize that the court decision is racist and that it violates international agreements.

Activists say most of those affected by the court ruling are the descendants of poor migrants who came to work in sugar cane fields from neighboring Haiti, a predominantly black nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

Rosario said more than half of the 24,392 residents not properly registered are of Haitian descent.

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