Caricom denies moving slowly on Dominican Republic issue

Bridgetown, Barbados (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it disagrees with statements that the 15-member regional grouping “has been slow” to deal with the unfolding situation in the Dominican Republic, where people of Haitian descent are being deported from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.

“I disagree, I fundamentally disagree,” CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) ahead of the July 2-4 summit of regional leaders here.

The Dominican Republic gave a deadline of June 17, 2015 for people of Haitian descent to apply for legal residency. Hundreds of people, mostly low-wage workers from neighbouring Haiti, waited in line for hours to submit residency applications under a registration initiative that began last June.

The Dominican Republic has said migrants who can prove they entered the country before October 2011 can qualify for legal residency. Otherwise, they could face deportation.

The move by the Dominican Republic has drawn criticism worldwide, with the Caribbean Community grouping urging the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country to halt the policy of deportations.

La Rocque said that the issue will be among agenda items to be discussed by the CARICOM leaders and told CMC regarding the Dominican Republic matter “not everything you do is in the public limelight.

“The region has been engaging (the Dominican Republic issue). If one goes back to the CELAC (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit in Havana, there was no publicity about it. It was a major issue on the agenda there from CARICOM in the presence of all of Latin America.

“It was again raised recently with the European Union… the committee has adopted a certain stance towards the Dominican Republic that is well known and we are seeing the results of this”.

Asked whether he expected regional leaders to adopt an even stronger position towards the Dominican Republic that is seeking membership of the regional grouping, La Rocque told CMC “a lot would depend on the stance the Dominican Republic takes in the coming weeks”.

Last week, the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat issued a statement calling on Santo Domingo not to expel the people of Haitian descent, indicating that there is a “very real possibility that they could be expelled to Haiti, a country of which they are not citizens and with which many have neither family nor language links, was an additional cause for concern.

“The Community calls on the Dominican Republic authorities to adhere to the above principles and confirm the citizenship status of Dominicans of Haitian descent. The Community also calls on the Dominican Republic not to engage in the expulsion of Dominicans of Haitian descent and avoid creating a humanitarian crisis in our region.”

La Rocque said that the summit here would discuss a “number of very important issues” saying the region, as part of the global community, is preparing for meetings including those on climate change, the post 2015 development agenda as well as financing for development.

“All of these issues will be discussed we are fortunate to have with us, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon and we will enter into a dialogue with him on these very issues in terms of our preparation.”

He said the situation regarding the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana will also be among the agenda items.

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