Guyana’s migration has the characteristics of a humanitarian crisis
Guyana Honorary Consul to Barbados, Mr. Norman Faria’s attacks on the Caribbean Congress of Labour’s (CCL) for its advice to undocumented immigrants in Barbados to regularize their status as offered under Barbados’ recent immigration policy, demonstrates once again the refusal to acknowledge there are significant differences between free movements of skills under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and illegal immigrants.
In the attempt to make the case against the CCL’s advice, Mr. Faria sought to separate me, a Guyanese and Guyanese Trade Unionist, from the statement by questioning my commitment to workers’ rights. It should be said that the fact that I am Guyanese does not mean I will join those crusading against the principles governing the CSME, a country’s right to its sovereignty and the rule of law. For the trade union this posture is not considered workers’ rights.
The Guyana Consulate in Barbados is the representative of the Government and people of Guyana. Recent statements made by Mr. Faria in the SN favourably comparing the relationship with the Government of former Prime Minster Owen Arthur against current Prime Minister David Thompson is reckless and making a bad situation worse. This immersion in Barbados national politics while performing diplomatic duties on behalf of the Guyana Government indicates that Mr. Faria lacks an understanding of his role.
This is the type of behaviour that pit countries against countries and people against people and more so can contribute to the prejudice against Guyanese living in, or visiting, Barbados. It would have served this nation best interest had Mr. Faria used the time to educate and advise Guyanese in Barbados as to their rights and how they need to pursue same.
The establishment of CSME was not done without regard to set guidelines and respect for the sovereignty of participating countries. The CSME’s policies were made, agreed to, and signed on to, by every CARICOM government; a fact their missions abroad are aware of. It is therefore the responsibility of the Guyana Consul to give proper advice to Guyanese in Barbados.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which includes the CSME established the legal framework for implementation and this has been enacted into domestic law by all countries participating in the CSME.
The key elements of CSME are:
• The free movement of skills/labour
• The free movement of goods
• The provision of services
• The free movement of capital
• The right to establishment
The CSME offers every CARICOM worker the right to seek employment in any member country. But with this right comes responsibility. Under the CSME there are two categories where employment can be sought: 1) those eligible under the CSME, and 2) those not belonging to the CSME categories.
Approved categories of workers are required to obtain a Certificate of Recognition of CARICOM Skills Qualification as provided for in the CARICOM Skills National Acts of Member States. This Certificate will facilitate free movement into and within Member States as it would provide Immigration Officials and the host country with proof that a CARICOM National belongs to the approved categories.
Workers not yet eligible for free movement will have to apply for a work permit.
Once they have found employment and have a job letter in hand, they must initiate the applicable procedures as laid out in relevant Immigration and Labour Acts in Member States before accessing employment.
The fact that some Guyanese felt, and were lead to believe, that the Free Movement of Skill meant they were not obligated to CSME’s guidelines and Barbados’ laws is an indictment on Guyana’s representative in Barbados.
Attacking the Caribbean Congress of Labour; making insinuation about the sincerity of Barbados’ amnesty, and creating conflicts in Barbados, national politics, does not absolve Mr. Faria from culpability.
It is important to note that while there will always be migratory push and pull factor, it is not the trades union’s position to encourage forced migration and this is what is taking place as it relates to the undocumented Guyanese migrants in Barbados.
The ILO and UN Conventions, the Caribbean Decent Work Agenda, and the Constitution of Guyana have entrusted the primary responsibility for a people’s wellbeing to the country’s Government.
The Barbados Consul therefore cannot be comfortable to have the Government of Barbados open its doors to immigrants who are forced to leave their land of birth, yet at the same time does not want the Guyana Government to use the country’s resources for the benefit of the people of this country. Guyana’s migration has the characteristics of a humanitarian crisis and the situation is made worse by the Government refusal to create the enabling environment where the people can find legitimate work, respect their human rights and provide security and quality social services.
For too long our politicians have boasted about Guyana’s economic potential yet we continue to live in poverty, or forced to migrate, because the dream eludes us.
The PPP was elected to do better than the PNC and it must go and do its job and stop blaming others for its deficiencies.
The time has come for Guyanese, inclusive of Mr. Faria, to demand that their Government provide for them rather than demonizing others to do so.
Let us use the Barbados experience to crusade for all Guyanese to be treated equally and benefit from the opportunities Guyana can offer to Guyanese regardless of race, class, or creed.