Posted: Friday, July 7, 2023. 8:11 am CST.
By Breaking Belize News Staff: In a historic move, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) announced plans for unrestricted movement of all categories of people across member countries by March of next year. The news was announced by CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, at the closing news conference of the 45th Regular meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The event also marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“I believe the founding fathers are smiling from heaven,” said Skerrit, with his words resonating hope and unity among the community members present, as reported by the Caribbean Loop News.
The announcement was met with applause from the gathered Caribbean leaders and diplomatic representatives at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Skerrit added, “I think we would have served the community well at this meeting by arriving at that decision.” However, he acknowledged that there were legal issues to be ironed out and a deadline of March 30th was set to address these matters.
At present, categories including university graduates, nurses, teachers, media workers, musicians, agricultural workers, and private security officers are eligible to seek employment in any of the nations participating in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). Skerrit highlighted that the proposed expansion of free movement would not include Haiti, as the Prime Minister, Dr. Ariel Henry, had requested exemption due to ongoing social, security, and political issues in the country. The current visa requirements for Haitian nationals will remain in effect.
Skerrit also pointed out that “certain contingent rights” would be offered, including access to primary and emergency healthcare, as well as free primary and secondary education. When asked for more details on the agreement, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley emphasized the cautious approach being adopted to prevent potential lawsuits against governments.
As per Caribbean Loop News, Mottley highlighted that the CARICOM Development Fund would be utilized to finance the required changes and ensure each country can upgrade its services to a minimum level to support free movement. The ongoing pandemic has necessitated carving out certain exceptions, she noted, adding that restrictions for national security, public health, and balance of payment purposes were part of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Mottley stated that the objective is to “ensure that the desire of heads is met by the reality of implementation” and highlighted the relevance of the move in light of the various challenges that Caribbean countries currently face. The leaders are allowing themselves time to make the necessary amendments to the treaty to facilitate the freedom of movement “without fear of any further recriminations.”
The news comes as a promising development for the region, exemplifying a renewed commitment towards unity, integration, and mutual support among CARICOM nations.
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