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AS I SEE THINGS: CSME and our changing attitudes

Brian Francis, [email protected]

AS I SEE THINGS: CSME and our changing attitudes

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WHEN IT COMES to the movement of people within the region, everyone is likely to have a different experience based on his destination as well as country of residence. And if we as a serious people wish to deny that basic fact, then, what’s next?

Here is a simple case in point. A few years ago, the treatment of some individuals from Guyana by Barbados’ Immigration Department became a matter of great discussion and concern among Caribbean nationals living and working in Barbados, raising serious issues about the Caricom Single Market and Economy and xenophobia.

No sooner had the dust settled a bit on that matter, regional integration and, specifically, the free movement of our nationals once again took centre stage with the now notorious case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie against the Barbados Government for the manner in which she was treated by Immigration upon arrival at Grantley Adams International Airport. 

Clearly frustrated and disappointed over this incident, given the numerous number of years spent working at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, Professor Neville Duncan immediately called on CARICOM governments to outline clearly their positions in relation to free movement within the region. I am unaware that that call was ever heeded by our governments!

Moreover, in its ruling on the case brought by Myrie against Barbados, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) concluded: “This case deals with important issues of Caribbean Community law which have not previously been addressed by this court. The most prominent among them is whether and to what extent CARICOM (or Community) nationals have a right of free movement within the Caribbean Community.

“The case also raises other aspects of Caribbean Community law which are of very significant doctrinal and practical relevance. First and foremost, however, this is a case about a young Jamaican woman who one day left her country, for the very first time in order to travel to another Caribbean country and, having arrived there, found herself in a situation from which, several months later, according to Jamaican medical practitioners, she was still suffering post-traumatic stress.”

The ruling continued: “The State of Barbados breached the right of the claimant to enter Barbados pursuant to Article 45 of the [Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas] in conjunction with the 2007 Conference Decision.”

In light of that ruling, which should be as clear as can be to all and sundry, why are we in the region now being bombarded with accusations of ill treatment of Jamaicans entering Trinidad and Tobago? Don’t our governments understand the ruling of the CCJ and the implications of that historical judgement? Is it the case that despite the ruling, we just can’t care less? Or is it that the episodes presented in the media are the exceptions rather than the rule and in fact that the Immigration officials in Trinidad and Tobago are functioning well within acceptable norms and laws?  

The truth is that irrespective of the answers to the various questions posed, we in the region must begin immediately to change our attitudes toward each other when it comes to the free movement of nationals within our small geographic space.

Otherwise, we will continue to squander a potentially great opportunity to grow and develop our economies through deeper regional integration within the precincts of the CSME and that would be yet another unfortunate chapter in our economic and political history.

Email: [email protected]