– but efforts still continue to address hassle-free travel
Some 14,000 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) skills certificates have been issued to date, allowing Caribbean
nationals to secure specialised careers within CARICOM territories.
This disclosure was made on Saturday by CARICOM’s Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque, as he addressed the graduates of the 48th Convocation of the University of Guyana on Saturday.
Ambassador La Rocque, who was tasked with delivering the feature address, told the more than 1,600 graduates that the possibility of them accessing the Skills Certificate in fact makes them quite fortunate. “Now that you are university graduates you should apply for your CARICOM Skills Certificate in order to seek professional opportunities in any of the 12 countries currently participating in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CMSE)…” Ambassador La Rocque told his attentive audience.
And even as he urged the graduates to “get yours, and use it…,” the Ambassador went on to share his optimism that the graduating class of 2015, unlike those coming after them, will also be able to apply for their Skills Certificates, except fully online.
This is in light of the fact that efforts are currently being made to develop an electronic platform to cater to online application, said the Secretary General. “This is a good example of what our Community, your Community, is doing: providing opportunities for our skilled citizens to advance their own careers and pursue their personal goals, while at the same time, contributing to the development of our Region.”
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas provides for the free movement of skilled Community nationals. The first category identified in this regard was that of university graduates. That provision, he asserted, was expressly made in recognition of the critical role “you (graduates) have to play in promoting the prosperity, security and well-being of all our peoples.”
The CARICOM Secretary General added that the Community remains dedicated to achieving the objectives of the CSME including the free movement of skilled nationals; of providers of services; of the self-employed and of those establishing businesses.
“The rights that CARICOM nationals now enjoy to establish enterprise wherever they wish in their Region, will release entrepreneurial energy bottled up for far too long,” said Ambassador La Rocque.
“We still have work to do to put all the enabling structures in place, and see them fully, consistently and equitably enacted, enforced and implemented. I am determined to achieve that. And I am confident we will.”
But even as measures are being made to encourage the free movement of CARICOM nationals, there are yet some prevailing challenges that the Secretary General has not been oblivious to. In fact, he in his deliberations on Saturday said, “I am acutely aware of the difficulties still being experienced at ports of entry in some of our Member States by those who seek to exercise their rights of free movement and to hassle-free travel.”
It was at this very juncture that he insisted that “certain categories of citizens have the right to work and live in any participating State – that is the free movement of skills provision.”
Further, he ascertained that “all CARICOM nationals have the right to an automatic stay of six months, subject only to circumscribed exceptions which is in fact the hassle-free travel provision.”
But Ambassador LaRocque has expressed concern that inconsistent application of the agreed rules has caused some challenges. These are however, expected to be addressed through training of the relevant points-of-entry officials, an undertaking the Ambassador said, is continuing in order to reinforce good practices and minimise the difficulties.
“To the average person, the success of CARICOM is often measured by the ability to move freely around the Region, in accordance with Community decisions which form part of our body of Community law.
“With respect to hassle-free travel, the vast majority of persons travel throughout our Region everyday without problems. It is working,” said the Secretary General.
He acknowledged that “the reality is that, the exception to the rule creates a damaging perception in the minds of our people. Our less than complete success in turning the concept of hassle-free movement, as agreed, into real personal experience has undermined our credibility as a Community.”
He reflected on last year’s ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case which has served to pronounce on just such a matter. And according to Ambassador LaRocque, “We must take heed of the Court’s ruling.”
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