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UK researcher says digital ID being used for exclusion in Dominican Republic

UK researcher says digital ID being used for exclusion in Dominican Republic

A new book entitled ‘Legal Identity, Race and Belonging in the Dominican Republic’ by Dr. Eve Hayes de Kalaf, a Stipendiary Fellow at the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) provides insight into how some modern digital identity systems can also be used for discriminatory and exclusionary purposes.

International organizations such as the World Bank and the UN have been encouraging states to provide citizens with forms of legal identification to combat poverty and access to services.

The book illustrates how efforts to provide people with proof of legal existence as Dominican citizens, in fact facilitated a space which allowed for the retroactive exclusion of Haitian descended citizens from the Dominican civil registry. De Kalaf highlights the need to base mass digital ID systems on the lived experience of populations in order to better understand the discriminatory implications, and owning an ID as a means to unlocking basic rights, via a pre-book launch webinar.

The research behind the book found that the (Dominican) state refused to issue or reissue Haitian descended people with the necessary documents for access to essential healthcare services, welfare and education.

ID and identity documentation is intrinsically linked to the concept of citizenship, however, what is missing from this debate is how citizenship should be defined and who should have access to such identity systems, says De Kalaf. In Latin American countries, legal identification is granted by the government via a birth certificate, and the migrant crisis in Latin America has proved particularly challenging for those who cannot produce identity documents or whose documents cannot be accepted by a host country. Dominican citizenship has become inclusive for some but more exclusive for others and therefore a more global conversation is needed around the situation, suggests De Kalaf.

​​The Dominican Republic is currently planning the introduction of a biometric passport in order to facilitate entry and exit processes at airports in the country.

The rise of digital COVID passports, biometric digital identity cards and data-sharing track-and-trace systems are in fact assisting the policing of both migrants and citizens, says De Kalaf, and therefore more research is needed into the lived experiences of people who are impacted by implementation of identity systems and corresponding policies.

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