Jul 03, 2009 News
By Tusika Martin
Caribbean countries have the sovereign right to determine their own immigration policies. However maltreatment of Caricom citizens is repugnant to the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and to human decency, and must be deplored, President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.
Addressing the 30th Regular meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, Guyana’s Head of State lashed out at the new immigration policy adopted by Barbados.
He noted, “If we treat our own people badly, how can we then expect third countries to treat them with respect?”
To cheers from the audience, President Jagdeo lambasted recent actions by Barbadian immigration authorities and to a lesser extent, the actions by Antigua in recent times.
But technical, economic and political issue apart, the Caricom leaders’ work will remain incomplete “until the day when a child born anywhere in our region, opens his or her eyes to a patrimony that sees no boundaries between nations and nationalities within our integrated Caribbean space.”
He urged that the Heads of Government of the Caribbean could set the example for such a ‘glorious day’.
The average Caribbean traveler, President Jagdeo said, will access the integration movement based on the ease in which he/she can travel from one member state to another within the single space.
If that traveler sees him/herself as encountering more hurdles in traversing this space than the visitor from overseas, his faith in integration is shaken, sometimes permanently.
Jagdeo gained the support of the audience when he pointed out that the average Caribbean manufacturing company would form a conclusion on regional integration by the ease by which its products can enter the market of another member state.
“If they encounter incongruent national standards that cause their products to be accepted in one market but rejected in another, or face standards that are higher for regional goods than for goods from extra-regional sources, then regional integration becomes a fiction to them.”
These are the ‘nuisances’ that Regional leaders need to fix, Jagdeo said, “if we are to arrest disenchantment with the regional endeavour.’
But even as Barbados implemented its new immigration policy that is causing much controversy across the region, Antigua and Barbuda has already indicated its intention to also tighten up on its ‘liberal’ immigration policy.
Speaking ahead of President Jagdeo, Antigua’s Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer last evening told the Heads of Government of the region that his country’s liberal immigration policy cannot be sustained.
He pointed out that cross boarder criminal activities and economic crisis have forced his country to rethink that immigration policy.
“The immigration department in Antigua and Barbuda has approved over 14,000 applications from persons seeking the extension of time to remain in the country.”
He noted that some of these applicants have received multiple extensions over the years.
In respect of work permits, the Prime Minister that during between 1998 and 2008, an average of 5000 work permits were granted on an annual basis.
He added that between 1999 and 2008 a total of 5,988 persons became citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
The country, he said, will continue to welcome persons from across the Caribbean to its shores but the current immigration practices must be revised.
A closer examination is warranted in respect of the capacity of the country’s various socio-economic institutions and infrastructure to adequately manage the continued request of persons desirous of taking up residence there.
Consultations are currently ongoing in Antigua and Barbuda to the redesigning of the immigration policy and procedures, which will facilitate an amendment of the currently immigration legislation.
“Despite our challenges I can unequivocally state that Antigua and Barbuda remains committed to the principles of the regional integration movement…However the realities of the situation calls for us to act responsibly,” Spencer said.
He urged that all leaders work together for the interest of the peoples of the region, which is the essence of the Caribbean situation.
Meanwhile, Caricom Secretary General, Dr. Edwin Carrington, in his address at the opening ceremony, said that he is confident that there will be ample opportunity for free and frank debate on the many issues confronting the Community during the meeting.
The outcome, he said, must lead to a reinvigoration of the integration process and to a renewal of the commitment to the building of a “Community for All.”
To achieve that goal, Dr. Carrington said, the debate must lead to a rekindling of the spirit of hope and expectation among the people of the Community and thereby to their re-engagement in the construction of the community.
“Such an outcome would also send a clear message to the world that a strengthened Caribbean Community is ready to take its place in the post-crisis global arena.”
With regard to economic development, the Heads of Government during the meeting will focus on the Regional impact of, and response to the global economic and financial crisis; developments related to the Tourism Sector; Developments related to Agriculture and Food Security; and matters related to Services.
The 30th Regular meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community opened yesterday in Guyana at the National Cultural Centre.
Business sessions of the meeting will be held from today.
Those sessions will be devoted to discussions on four clusters of items: Economic Development, Human and Social Development; Strengthening the Community; and Strengthening Alliances/Forging New Relations.
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