SOVEREIGNTY FIRST, freedom of movement second – that is the word from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart concerning the free movement of Caribbean nationals into Barbados.
Stuart was giving the Government’s position on the issue during a speech at the business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday.
The Prime Minister said that Government had made the point that “because you are committed to freedom of movement and because you are committed to the realization of a Single Market and Economy,
it does not mean that you give up your sovereignty as a nation and it certainly does not mean that you turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to issues of national security”.
Stuart stressed that the immigration laws of Barbados had not been repealed and that all Government asked was that “the immigration laws be obeyed”.
“Barbados is reviled and persecuted and is sometimes described as not being faithful to the regional project. But there is freedom of movement in Barbados, as long as our immigration laws are observed and as long as all of the other security issues are taken care of.
“Whether we use a passport or whether we use some other kind of instrument, there still has to be oversight and supervision of the movement of people.
“We do not have all saints in this region.
I don’t know that all the people who move through this region have taken vows of sanctity or chastity.
“So we have to have laws and regulations in place to ensure that even though people are moving, their movement is consistent with the national security and all the other national interests of Barbados.
“And what we ask for ourselves, we are also prepared to allow the other countries in the region.
“I don’t know that Barbadians quarrel because they have to observe the immigration laws of another country in the Caribbean.
“So let the word go forth: your people are free to come, subject to compliance with our laws,” he said.
He noted that the freedom of movement issue has been “held up as the issue that defines the realization of a Caribbean single market and economy – the right for people to move freely,” and that, “if you have that, you have a single market and economy.”
The Prime Minister pointed out, however: “Now, freedom of movement is organically linked to the issue of reliable and affordable regional transportation. There is no really reliable – and nowadays not very affordable – transportation here in the Caribbean. But the government that is responsible for transportation within the cabinet of the CARICOM heads of government is not asking questions about that.
“Barbados has lead responsibility for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, so when it appears that there may be a few pot holes or a few zigzags, you hear that CSME, for which Barbados is responsible, is making no progress.
“We have to ensure that all of the elements that go to making up a Single Market and Economy are in place, before we can point an accusing finger at the government that has lead responsibility,” Stuart said, adding, “what I am saying here, I will say elsewhere”.