The Government has proclaimed legislation which will increase the number of people from Caricom member states who can enter and work in this country, as well as allow them to do so indefinitely.
In a media statement yesterday, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne announced the Proclamation of the Amendments to the Immigration (Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals) Act 2022 by President Paula-Mae Weekes.
Minister Browne said the amendments “signal Trinidad and Tobago’s ongoing commitment to the deepening and strengthening of the regional integration process, and brings Trinidad and Tobago into compliance with decisions of the Conference of Heads of Government regarding the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Free Movement Regime.”
With the amendments, the expansion of the categories of workers eligible for free movement within the region moves from 5 (University graduates, artistes, musicians, media workers and sports people) to 12 categories.
Among the additional categories are agriculture workers and security guards.
Another major development as a result of the change will see Caricom workers being allowed to stay in T&T indefinitely.
In piloting the Bill in the Lower House of Parliament in June last year, Browne explained that clause 5 amends sections 3, 4, and 4(1), which seek to harmonise the protocol for Caricom nationals at the port of entry with the decision of heads of government at the Thirteenth Regular Meeting in 2009, that all eligible categories of skilled community nationals must be granted a definite entry of six months if they present their skills certificate at a point of entry, and must receive the stamp “free movement, definite entry, right to work, verification required” in their passport.
“The receiving country has the right to verify the qualifications of the skilled national. Once verification has been completed, an indefinite stay shall be granted and the stamp entitled, “free movement, indefinite entry, right to work” must be affixed in their passport. Again, bringing us into line with the rest of the region,” he said.
As it stood before, for entry into T&T, there was an obligation to reapply within six months of entry.
Yesterday, Browne told Guardian Media a system of verification is already harmonised across member states and is in place.
He said, “Every certificate that we issue will come with an advisory letter clearly outlining rights and responsibilities.”
He explained that the Immigration Department will have two stamps – entry for 6 months, right to work, verification required.”
After verification, the other stamp would read, “Free movement indefinite right to work.”
“If the holder of the certificate is found afterwards to have false documents, is in serious breach of the law, or is a threat to national security, the Minister of National Security retains the right to revoke the status as a permitted entrant,” he said
Based on the legislation, the fine for such a breach is $100,000 and imprisonment for five years.
Commenting on the development, National Trade Union Centre (NATUC)general secretary Michael Annisette supported the move, which he described as long overdue.
“We cannot do it by ourselves, regardless of how much money you have, how much gas money, how much oil, you cannot do it by yourself. We need to come together as a body, as a region and work in unity for the development of the region,” he said.
Annisette also rubbished the narrative by some in the public space that people from other countries would be coming here to take jobs from locals.
“We need to get past that narrative, you know, ‘you coming to take my job’ because those are things that have been instilled in our minds to bring about the continued division that we have,” he said.
The provisions implemented in this country have already been in effect in other countries in the region.