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Hundreds Of Thousands Of Haitians Are Scrambling To Stay In The Dominican Republic

They face a fast approaching deadline to register with the Dominican government after being stripped of citizenship.

Posted on June 16, 2015, at 12:51 p.m. ET

Hundreds of Haitians braved very long lines on Monday in an attempt to stay in the Dominican Republic ahead of a Wednesday deadline to file the proper paperwork or face deportation.

Ezequiel Abiu Lopez / AP

Haitian Jaquenol Martinez shows a card that proves that he has worked in the Dominican sugar cane fields since 1963, while trying to apply for a temporary resident permit, in Santo Domingo.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the small island of Hispanola in the Caribbean Sea. Former French and Spanish colonies respectively, the border between the two countries previously was relatively open, with many poorer Haitians crossing for work.

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The two have had a rocky relationship over the years. The wealthier Dominican Republic has long been accused of treating Haitian migrants and their descendants as second-class citizens.

And Haiti has long been plagued with ineffective governance and dwindling natural resources, further pressuring its population to try to cross the border.

Despite that, the Dominican government rushed to the aid of Haiti following the devastating earthquake that demolished the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince in 2010. For a brief moment, it seemed like ties between the two were on the mend.

That all changed in 2013, when the DR's Constitutional Court issued a ruling further tightening a 2010 citizenship law that "retroactively denies Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood."

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

A fishermen cleans fish in the waters of Caracol Bay before selling it to fish vendors in Haiti.

The decision affected not only recent migrants from Haiti but the descendants of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic who considered themselves native. With thousands now stateless, protestors demanded better treatment of Haitian immigrants.

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

Protesters march to the embassy of the Dominican Republic in Port-au-Prince

In response, the Dominican government passed a new law last year, setting up a program under which people could "register to a special scheme to obtain a residence permit which would be needed to later claim citizenship in the country."

Ezequiel Abiu Lopez / AP

Marie Adenes Dieudonne, a Haitian immigrant in the Dominican Republic, poses for a photo to start her registration in the "regularization process" of foreigners living in the Dominican Republic

To register, non-citizens would have to provide documentation to establish their identity and prove that they arrived after October 2011. Officials estimate that the number who meet those terms may be as high as 500,000.

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

But few had qualified as of Monday. "While officials have said there will be no mass round-ups, authorities have prepared 12 buses and opened processing centers along the border with Haiti to expedite repatriations," the AP reported.

Ezequiel Abiu Lopez / AP

Delinua Dovil Jean Francois, right, shows the supporting documents that proves that he did the paperwork for obtaining his Haitian identity card, in order to apply for a temporary resident permit in the Dominican Republic

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