Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | July 6, 2009
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CARICOM reaffirms free movement

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to the free movement of nationals across the region, consistent with the provisions contained in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member grouping.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, however, told reporters that while regional leaders have recognised the right of a member government to pursue domestic immigration policies, it must not be done outside of commitments to Articles 45 and 46 of the treaty, which establish the goals of CARICOM regarding freedom of movement.

"It is accepted and has been accepted by the Community yesterday (Friday) that Article 45, which addresses the goal, contains within, it necessarily, the spirit of the treaty for migrants who are outside of the declared categories. They are entitled to human treatment, even though they may be technically illegal," Gonsalves said.

"In fact, that is required of us by international law," he told reporters, adding that the Caribbean has just signed a declaration at the United Nations which relates to migration as a human right.

"There are certain minimum standards which must be adhered to, I don't have to go into any gruesome details as to what will fall short of those minimum standards, you can guess them," the St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister said.

Dominant agenda items

The migration issue has emerged as one of the more dominant agenda items at the summit, which ended on Saturday.

Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda have recently announced new immigration policies that some regional countries deem contrary to the spirit of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy that allows for the free movement of skills, labour, goods and services across the region.

But both Bridgetown and St John's have sought to defend their positions by indicating that while they are not against the ideals of the CSME, it was necessary to impose the restrictions on illegal migration because of its impact on social services.

Guyana is one of the countries that is opposed to the treatment of their nationals under the new immigration measures. It has said that many of its nationals have been rounded up and subjected to degrading treatment by immigration authorities in Barbados.

Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson has said that he would establish an independent review committee that would investigate such allegations.

Gonsalves said that while he was not prepared to name any specific country, "we know that in every single Caribbean country, some more than others, that migrants are taken up and treated in a manner that is not humane.

"Once we acknowledge that there is a spirit of the treaty that addresses certain minimum standards of treatment and they are also included in international law and best practice, it is now up to us to work out the necessary protocols which would adhere to certain minimum standards."

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