Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Freedom for families - Six CARICOM states clear the way for reunification of spouse and children with those working abroad

Published:Sunday | July 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM
President of Chile Sebastián Piñera (fourth left) joins the 15 regional leaders for an official photo during the 39th Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

With a stroke of their pens, six heads of state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) last Friday inked a far-reaching agreement, paving the way for persons who work across the region to have their spouses and dependents join them in those jurisdictions.

Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, was among those who signed the agreement dubbed 'The Protocol on Contingent Rights'.

Other leaders who signed were Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados; Allen Chastenet, prime minister of St Lucia; Dr Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada; and Delano Bouterse, president of Suriname. Haiti's foreign minister, Antonio Rodrigue, signed on behalf of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Holness told journalists that the agreement was an important component of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the free movement of skills across the region.

Speaking at a press conference to close the 39th Regular Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, Holness said that the meeting delivered on the long-awaited promises for the citizens of the region.

"We promised that we would ensure family reunification through the granting of important rights to spouses and dependents of citizens that move across the region to work.

"This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that will encourage greater use of the free-movement regime as it ensures greater level of comfort and peace of mind for families. This is a crucial step to making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the region," said Holness.


Productive conference


Calling the three-day conference productive and decisive, Holness said that CARICOM heads have agreed that by December 31, 2018, all states should put in place the necessary legislative framework to facilitate all 10 approved categories of workers that qualify for free movement.

Further, Holness said that CARICOM leaders adopted the procedures on the refusal of entry, which would be applied at each country's border.

An August 1, 2018, deadline has been set for member states to apply these procedures. He said that the procedures would guide border officials on how they should treat nationals who are refused entry. "This will safeguard the rights of all community nationals moving across the region."