In a matter of months, nationals of most member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) should be able to travel and live freely across the region with the bloc’s Heads of Government now backing the full, free movement of people.
“We have taken a decision to have the free movement of all categories of people to live and work,” Dominican Prime Minister and Chairman of CARICOM, Roosevelt Skerrit highlighted at a press conference on Wednesday.
He added, “We believe that this is a fundamental part of the integration architecture and at 50 (years), we could not leave Trinidad and Tobago and not speak about the core of the integration movement and that is people’s ability to move freely within the Caribbean Community.”
Further, with CARICOM nationals moving freely within the region, it will be expected that they will be afforded a minimum, agreed upon set of rights. Prime Minister Skerrit says these rights include the right to basic education, healthcare and security.
Under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which falls under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, CARICOM nationals are allowed to freely move in participating countries to engage in gainful economic activity.
Hassle-free travel is also promised.
This joins other provisions for the free movement of goods and capital in most of the 15-member bloc. The Bahamas and Montserrat do not subscribe to the CSME.
Now, however, the Heads of Government who gathered in Port of Spain, Trinidad, for the 45th Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM, back the full, free movement of people.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley clarified that this step now removes the existing caveat for the free movement of people. That caveat is that the people who seek to move across the region to live and work must belong to certain categories of skilled personnel.
“It’s all people, there’s no services anymore.
“This now gives full expression to what every Caribbean people have wanted since we had control of our destinies,” Mottley said.
To bring this new plan to fruition, CARICOM’s Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas will have to be revised. And Heads of Government decided that they would like to hammer out related legal issues that may constrain the full, free movement of people by March 30, 2024.
By March, the Heads of Government are expected to meet for CARICOM’s annual intersessional gathering of leaders. Next year, that meeting will be hosted in Guyana with the South- American, Caribbean nation taking over the Chairmanship of CARICOM from Prime Minister Skerrit.
There are some limitations, however.
The first is, these new free movement provisions will still not apply to The Bahamas and Montserrat.
And the current status quo of some countries imposing visa restrictions on Haitian nationals, though Haiti is a full CARICOM member state, will remain.
And Mottley said the Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has asked for a derogation from this agenda given the situation in his country.
Essentially, because of the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the country wants to be excused from these free travel provisions.
If there are other countries with “peculiar circumstances” that may require certain carve-outs under the free movement plan, Prime Minister Mottley said those will also be addressed.