The freedom of movement regime is hurting small states and needs to be reviewed urgently, a CARICOM ambassador has warned.
Dr Clarence Henry, the representative for Antigua & Barbuda, told Barbados TODAY that while the regime had proven useful, time had shown that less developed countries (LDCs) were being disadvantaged.
“We believe that more ought to be done to assist these countries that are less endowed by the more endowed. The movement of persons is definitely coming from [states like] Jamaica and Guyana into the less developed countries. There has to be some sort of responsibility on the path of the sending state to the receiving state,” he said.
“We also suggest that the time has come for a review of the implementation arrangement because since when the Heads [of Governments], in 1989, at Grand Anse (Grenada) decided on the policy of the CARICOM Single Market as a project, times have changed and this is 2013 and we’re looking to usher in 2014.”
The effectiveness of the CSME arrangement has come under scrutiny in recent times.
First there was the case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie who successfully challenged her deportation from Barbados in March 2011 and was awarded BDS$75,000.
Then 13 Jamaicans were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago late last month, which they claimed is a clear violation of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas. They also said they were mistreated.
Trinidad & Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said her country did absolutely nothing wrong.
“Until any further evidence comes forward, based on that report it appears we are in compliance with the law,” the prime minister said.
In response, Jamaicans threatened to boycott Trinidadian products, necessitating a meeting between top Government officials from the two countries.
And about two weeks ago Haitian Rachel Lalanne, who was forced to overnight at the Grantley Adams International Airport, alleged that her rights as a CARICOM national were violated when she had to pay US$100 for a Barbados visa when she missed her connecting flight to St Vincent and the Grenadines. Lalanne said she too was ill-treated.
While Henry and Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM Robert “Bobby” Morris have said that Bridgetown does not have a case to answer since Haiti is not part of the free movement regime, the Antiguan did say Heads of Government need to factor in the economic challenges facing individual states of the 15-member grouping.
“The time has come for the region to reflect in a concrete way to see to what extent the goals of 1989 are still relevant today. Clearly some of the goals are not and so we need to tweak it. We need to fashion new arrangements, particularly as it pertains to the fiscal and economic challenges that all of us are experiencing,” Henry said.
“We ought not to be reactionary and we see this coming every so often and we need to deal with this now. I believe at the upcoming Heads meeting, whether it’s the Intercessional or the July meeting, that clearly these matters will be on the front burner. The freedom of movement issue must come back front and centre because a lot of the countries are now understanding the peculiar difficulties that have arisen as a result of that decision in 2007.”
The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica has said that CARICOM governments need to deal with the issue of migration.
Citing the case involving the deportation of Jamaicans from Trinidad, the group said: “We call upon the governments of CARICOM to quickly deal with the issues surrounding this recent development, by initiating urgent dialogue and consultations, in order to prevent the further deterioration in CARICOM relations, which can result,” the PSOJ said.
“Aspects of the Treaty Of Chaguaramas, in particular how it is being interpreted and implemented, must also be urgently addressed,” the group added.