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Haiti to register its migrants abroad after Dominican Republic ruling that strips citizenship

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FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2013, file photo, Mona Fleurisme 20, holds her 3-month-old son Rotelson as they wait to be taken to their hometown, together with other Haitians after being deported by Dominican Republic authorities, in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. Jean Baptiste Saint-Cyr, director of Haiti‚Äôs National Identification Office, has announced an effort to register Haitian immigrants, who live without documentation in the neighboring Dominican Republic as well as Turks and Caicos. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File) (The Associated Press)

Haiti is launching a program to register its migrants who live without documentation abroad, including in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of people of Haitian origin are in danger of being left stateless by a court ruling.

Government workers will travel to remote corners of the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos, which also has a large Haitian population, to register people of Haitian descent residing there without legal papers, Baptiste Saint-Cyr, director of the country's National Identification Office, told private Radio Metropole on Tuesday.

The $2.5 million project begins next month and will be carried out in other countries where Haitian migrants live, Saint-Cyr said. Haitian immigrants will be identified with the help of neighbors.

The program comes after a Dominican court last fall decided to revoke the citizenship of people of Haitian descent even if they were born in the Dominican Republic. The ruling aggravated already uneasy relations between the Caribbean neighbors, and it drew condemnation from human rights groups while spurring protests and boycotts in Haiti.

The two countries began closed-door discussions this year in an effort to stem tension over the ruling and other differences, with representatives from the U.N., Caribbean Community, European Union and Venezuela serving as observers. The decision to document Haitians who live in the Dominican Republic emerged as one of several agreements from those talks.

Dominican officials have said the court ruling is irreversible but a resolution appears to be a possibility.

In front of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States in Washington last Friday, Haitian President Michel Martelly expressed hope that the meetings would yield a positive outcome.

"In the context of these negotiations, the Dominican Republic has adopted a series of commitments that should allow us to find a successful solution, something we firmly desire," he said.

Dominican President Danilo Medina is supposed to submit a bill to his congress Feb. 27 that would naturalize residents who are about to lose their nationality.