CARICOM report condemns member states for free movement breaches
A Caribbean Community (CARICOM) report has strongly condemned several member states it suggests are deliberately ignoring rules and court decisions to facilitate free movement, a guaranteed right under community laws.
The report, seen by The Gleaner, has also revealed that several CARICOM states which have denied nationals entry have failed to submit the information to the Joint Regional Communication Centre, even in cases where the denials were widely reported in the media.
"Member States are not submitting complete data to the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) as refusals that have been a matter of public record are not in the APIS," read a section of the report distributed to CARICOM leaders meeting in Guyana for the 37th heads of government conference.
While the report does not name the offending CARICOM countries, it pointed to the case of 12 Jamaicans who were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago March.
That matter, it said, was not submitted by the immigration authorities in the republic.
There is also concern that some member states who are refusing entry to CARICOM nationals are violating the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice, which affirmed the right of entry of CARICOM nationals in the Shanique Myrie case.
"In several instances where member states refused entry, the reasons for refusal do not accord with the 2007 Conference decision as interpreted by the Court. This is also reflective of complaints received from Community nationals wherein the exact reasons for refusal do not appear to have been stated orally and written reasons furnished, other than possibly a citation of the provision of the Immigration Act which allows for refusal," read the document.
It said there have been several instances of nationals being granted less than six months stay in CARICOM countries contrary to the 2007 right of entry of Community nationals decision.
Under Community laws, all CARICOM countries must facilitate the travel of nationals by granting a state of six months in the first instance except in circumstances where the person is described as an "undesirable" or where the person will be a cost to the host country's finances.
The CCJ has affirmed that the exceptions must be narrowly interpreted with the national giving significant opportunities to challenge any decision to deny entry.
Fixing the issues
To fix the issues, the CARICOM leaders are expected to mandate a range of actions including the convening of a meeting of the chief immigration officers, CARICOM ambassadors, and other relevant officials, to address the challenges being experienced by Community nationals travelling throughout the region.
A protocol is also to be completed to formalise a process on how to deal with free movement issues. The document is expected to be adopted when leaders meet in Guyana next year February for their inter-sessional talks.
The long standing issue of travel facilitation, which was discussed yesterday, was put on the agenda of the CARICOM heads of government conference following a request by Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
According to Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Holness expressed frustration during a business meeting yesterday about Jamaicans facing difficulties to enter CARICOM countries.
"Jamaica, in particular, expressed its frustration that in many instances member countries have not been respecting the article for the free movement of people and Trinidad and Tobago spoke about further cooperation to encourage the movement of goods between CARICOM countries," Browne told The Gleaner.
"But a point was made by Andrew Holness that just as how we need to facilitate the movement of goods, you also have to facilitate the movement of people,"he said.