Let them in!
NGO grouping criticizes Antigua’s derogation request
A top official of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CDPC) has suggested that Antigua’s request for an extension to its derogation on free movement does not make sense.
And Shantal Munro-Knight, executive director of the coalition of Caribbean non-governmental organizations, has called on CARICOM leaders here for their 36th annual meeting, not to entertain the request.
Six years ago then Antiguan Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer secured a stay on the free movement of nurses and domestics. Now, his successor, Gaston Browne, has asked for an extension to the stay on household domestics.
However, Munro-Knight told Barbados TODAY the request was unfortunate and unfair since there was no evidence to suggest that the free movement of domestic workers would cause hardship.
“To have a country that is coming forward for derogation when really and truly domestics have really not been moving, what is the basis for the derogation, really? What is the evidence to suggest that there is going to be any harm done when you have a regime that is incomplete and not yet allowing these workers to move?”
Domestic workers and artisans have been given the right to move if they attain Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ), CARICOM’s competency based approach to training, assessment and certification.
Munro-Knight said while member countries were working to get the regime up and running, several states were not in the position to issue the CVQ.
“You have some states that are actually moving and are being able to issue the CVQ, so in that context as yet the rate of movement is minuscule. We are talking about even less than you can count on two fingers throughout the region. So again at this stage why are we asking for derogation when as yet [you] cannot have hard evidence to indicate any harm done as a basis for derogation?”
However, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who has responsibility for free movement within CARICOM’s quasi cabinet, has come to Antigua and Barbuda’s defence, saying he had no difficulty granting the request.
Skerrit said CARICOM did not wish to place any member country at an economic or social disadvantage, therefore the Community had to be mindful of the peculiar challenges confronting St John’s.
“I have no difficulty in acceding to the request of Antigua and Barbuda for a further extension of the derogation because at the end of the day we have to be mindful of people’s internal challenges, and while I would like to see the free movement properly instituted we have to be mindful of the issues confronting countries.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Antigua has had a derogation, for example, people have still been able to fetch work in Antigua. So I don’t think that it is in any real sense being operationalized as people think it is, where Antigua is stopping you on the border and saying that you cannot come in. People have come in over the years not withstanding the derogation,” the prime minister said.