Mia Mottley, Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, says a decision onthe implementation of the new electronic travel card will likely be made in September. - File
CARICOM will introduce a new high-tech travel card and an automatic six-month stay for all community nationals travelling within the bloc, government officials disclosed Wednesday at a summit of country leaders in Barbados.
Barbados Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley told journalists that the travel card would allow the region to create a virtual single domestic space similar to what obtained during the hosting of the Cricket World Cup.
The card, however, would be "significantly more efficient than the wrist band used during CWC," she said.
"It has two forms of biometrics - the finger prints and the facial - so that when you come to the airport and you have a CARICOM travel card you can swipe at a machine and the barrier would be opened and you walk through."
The implementation date for the new system could be determined as early as September when regional heads of government meet to finalise the matter.
Mottley told reporters that the card would speed entry through immigration and would be available to all CARICOM nationals in participating states as well as to ex-patriates who had legal status in a member country of the 15 in the bloc.
"You would not have to submit your passport for examination or for stamping," said the deputy PM.
The cost of acquiring the card is to be determined, but the country leaders have agreed that the proceeds would go towards offsetting the cost of enhanced security at the ports.
"We are very clear that we want to ensure as far as possible that their independent streams of revenue that will allow those institutions that we have put into place such as the regional intelligence fusion centre; such as IMPACTS, which is the policy body for crime and security in the region, to be able to function without putting a burden on the treasury on the various member states," said Mottley.
Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo saidhe readily supported plans to introduce the card, calling it a progressive move.
"In this light, I think it is the most exciting decision ever made at the CARICOM heads level," he said.
"First of all, the card will take away the discretion of the immigration officer and the second decision that we made here is that all CARICOM nationals travelling to each others' countries would be allowed to stay for six months minimum."