Monday, April 15, 2024

OUR CARIBBEAN: Respecting CCJ’s ‘free movement’


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Barbados, as one of, if not the leading beneficiary of intra-regional non-oil trade and functional cooperation within our Caribbean Community and Common Market, needs to be watchful against sending mixed signals in its interpretation and application of the recent landmark ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in relation to the right of CARICOM citizens to unhindered access at its ports of entry.
This observation has been triggered by a report in last Monday’s DAILY NATION that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in voicing his “concerns” about hassle-free movement within CARICOM, and in particular an “automatic“ six-month stay for Community nationals visiting Barbados “would attract the unemployed and criminals . . . ”
Respected for his generally careful public interventions in matters of national interest, the Prime Minister, who holds portfolio responsibility among CARICOM Heads of Government for the Community’s flagship project, CSME, would be aware that the provisions that facilitate a six-month ‘right’ to stay by a visiting national hardly make such a right “automatic”.
For a start, the visitor making this request has to establish proof of being able to sustain himself/herself for such a period without being a burden to the state. Secondly, evidence must be advanced to substantiate any claim that the visitor could be a threat to national security.
There lies the rub, and where the historical ruling by the CCJ in the case involving the Jamaican Shanique Myrie and Barbados offers useful guidance for immigration and customs authorities at ports of entry.
These authorities simply have to move away from a virtual institutionalized habit of bias in dealing with CARICOM visitors and revert to a culture of civility, competence and fairness for which the region’s immigration and customs services had acquired a proud reputation in years past.
Indeed, it would be interesting to have some precise data to substantiate expedient official claims of the six-month stay facility being abused to the social/economic disadvantage and hurt to ANY of the 15 member countries of CARICOM.
When immigration and custom officers are misled into the interpretation  of the CCJ’s ruling in reference to “hassle-free” intra-regional travel it could well send a conflicting signal to what’s really desired and consistent with the letter and spirit of  the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas governing the operations of CARICOM.
Readers need to remember that in its ruling the CCJ has explained that the right of “definite entry” by a CARICOM national “is part of the broader concept of free movement  that entails the right to unrestricted access to, and movement within the jurisdiction of member states..”
I, therefore, think that ALL governments of the Community have an obligation to sensitize their respective jurisdictions to the landmark judgement by the CCJ.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.


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