Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Jamaica's passport powerless - 'Country's perceived leadership in the region in danger'

Published:Friday | April 24, 2015 | 8:58 AMTyrone Thompson, Gleaner Writer

The Jamaican passport is ranked as one of the least valuable travel documents in the Caribbean based on the number of countries which allow its holders visa free travel through their ports of entry.

According to power rankings released on Monday by, travel and residence website passportindex.org, holders of a Jamaican passport are granted visa free access to 68 out of the 147 countries it checked around the globe.

This left the Jamaican passport with a power ranking of 50. This is the fourth lowest in the CARICOM with only Guyana, Surinam and Haiti’s passports less valuable.

In comparison, holders of a Barbadian passport are allowed visa free entry to 119 countries. This makes the Barbadian passport the most valuable in CARICOM with a power ranking of 22.

The Bahamas sits close behind Barbados with a power ranking of 23 and access to 117 countries while Trinidad and Tobago’s passport has a power ranking of 43 and visa free access to 77 countries.

The passport strength ranking, which was compiled using data from the International Air Transportation Agency (IATA), listed the United Kingdom and the United States passports as the strongest in the world with visa free access to all 147 countries tested.

While agreeing that the power of the Jamaican passport is weak opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Edmund Bartlett, said the low ranking is a reflection of a myriad of problems facing the country’s international image.

“The strength of your passport points to the overall value that you provide to the world as a nation, it is also a reflection of what is happening in your country. So countries are looking at Jamaica and they see high levels of crime, corruption and a struggling economy and are reacting to that by imposing more stringent restrictions on our citizens,” said Bartlett.

“At the same time the poor manner that some Jamaicans conduct themselves while in these countries can not be overlooked as well,” added Bartlett.

Other Caribbean countries whose passports were ranked stronger than Jamaica, include, St Lucia with a power ranking of 43 with visa free access to 73 countries, St Kitts and Nevis with a ranking 29 and access to 109 countries and Antigua and Barbuda with a power ranking of 25 with access to 113 countries.

For Bartlett Jamaica’s poor ranking in contrast to its Caribbean neighbours is evidence that the country’s perceived leadership in the region was in danger.

“It certainly is, because these are important factors that give you the credibility to demand leadership and as the fourth weakest passport in the region, this certainly lowers our regional standing and also puts our citizens at a particular disadvantage,” said Bartlett as he urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take immediate steps to strengthen the country’s public diplomacy.

Minister of Foreign Trade, A.J. Nicholson is off the island and was unable to comment on the passport ranking but Bartlett is adamant that this must be addressed.

“We need to seek a more strategic approach to building public diplomacy by ensuring that we are not renegades, that we adhere to global standards, that our trade facilitation is in line with acceptable standards.

“This ranking is also quite poignant because the Minister of Foreign affairs just last week made a ridiculous statement in the house that United States President Barack Obama’s visit had affirmed our standing as a leader on the international scene. How can this be the case if our citizens are treated as pariahs at international ports of entry?” questioned Bartlett.

Jamaicans under the treaty of Chaguaramas are granted visa free entry to the majority of CARICOM countries, however, many Jamaicans attempting to enter regional states including Barbados and Trinidad, have been turned back at the ports of entry.

Last year the then Minister of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago, Gary Griffith, defended the decision to deny entry to some Jamaicans arguing that more that 19,000 Jamaicans were living illegally in the twin island republic.