EDITORIAL – Grappling with a core CARICOM issue
PRIME MINISTER TILLMAN THOMAS of Grenada has identified as a “core problem” afflicting intra-regional free movement in the Caribbean Community the need for a review of the immigration services with a view to encouraging more positive attitudes and ensuring ethical work practices as a norm.
Speaking in his capacity as current chairman of CARICOM, as reported in this past SUNDAY SUN, Thomas was candid in declaring that unless a new approach was collectively pursued to arrest the problems being encountered at ports of entry by Community nationals, “the situation could well get worse before getting better . . . .”
Given the expressions of deep concern that have been flowing from government and other representatives across the Community – in the wake of sensational allegations made by Jamaican national Shanique Myrie of her treatment by Barbados immigration – it is to be assumed that Prime Minister Thomas’ call for a “review” of the functioning of immigration services would find positive responses from his colleagues.
Therefore, he should perhaps now consider taking the matter a step further by formally communicating with his colleagues to have the issue placed on the agenda for the forthcoming extraordinary meeting of Heads of Government in Guyana, expected in the next two months.
That should provide reasonable time for preparation of a draft working document with some ideas/suggestions on practical initiatives to be undertaken by member governments. It could incorporate specific proposals from representatives of immigration services as well as those of umbrella regional organizations such as the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The Heads of Government should also endeavour to have an update on actions taken, or yet to be pursued, to remove the hurdles impeding implementation of free movement of nationals.
Once the specific problems are located then it becomes a matter of political will to resolve them within realistic time frames with emphasis being on prioritised action rather than expediently trying to appease implementation defaulters to the detriment of the Community’s primary objectives.
With the myriad of social, economic and political problems and challenges facing CARICOM states, now is hardly the time for blame shifting or deferring decisions that could result in adding to the disillusionment of citizens. Nor should extra-regional factors be offered to rationalize recurring failures to implement decisions unanimously adopted.
Let there be, for instance, an unambiguous statement from the special summit on the readiness status of the long overdue omnibus “CARICOM Act” that could prove so effective in resolving problems that continue to mock official commitments to make a reality of a seamless regional economy for which free intra-regional movement is a core feature.