BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Caribbean leaders Thursday that he shares concerns about a crackdown on migrants in the Dominican Republic, most of whom are from Haiti or of Haitian descent.
Ban spoke to open a meeting of leaders from the nations of the 15-member Caribbean Community, of which Haiti is a member. Its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, is not and does not have a representative at the gathering.
Ban described the Dominican government's recent decision to start deporting non-citizens who did not submit applications to establish legal residency as a "matter of human rights and human dignity."
"I have discussed this with the president of the Dominican Republic and trust there will be further progress in resolving this matter," he said on a stage surrounded by Caribbean leaders.
Last week, Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul warned that the Dominican Republic was creating a humanitarian crisis with its crackdown, noting that 14,000 people, many of them children and young adults, had crossed the border into Haiti in less than a week.
The Dominican government has said deportations will be a methodical and lengthy process.
Earlier Thursday, Ban pledged to press for more funding to help small island states adapt to climate change and foster sustainable development. He told Caribbean leaders they are on the "climate front lines" and govern nations that are "some of the most vulnerable countries in the world."
The meeting in Barbados is focusing largely on development issues, but closed-door talks were expected on thorny political matters like an escalating border dispute between South American neighbors Guyana and Venezuela.
Guyana's capital serves as the headquarters of the Caribbean Community. Venezuela has long claimed about two-thirds of Guyana west of that country's Essequibo river as well as a large marine area where Exxon Mobil Corp. has recently said it made a significant oil discovery.
Before heading to the Barbados meeting, Guyana President David Granger said his government was determined to improve relations with its neighbor but steadfastly opposed "increasingly militant actions of Venezuela directed against Guyana's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Caribbean leaders invited Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to the meeting, but organizers said Thursday they were told a representative for his administration would attend.