Prime Minister David Thompson has called for a balanced and managed policy on migration in light of the global economic climate.
He made this plea yesterday, while addressing a business meeting of the Association of Freemasons, on the topic "The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Caribbean Integration Movement", at the Masonic Centre, Salters, St. George.
Mr. Thompson said: "… Until growth in our economies is such that they can sustain free movement of persons, we should move toward a formal system of managed migration, through guest worker programmes similar to the type we currently enjoy with Canada and the United States. "
He maintained that unrestricted movement of persons would make it difficult for small developing states such as Barbados to maintain their own economies and social services and "provide a win-win situation for all".
The Prime Minister pointed out that clear, unrestricted freedom of movement of labour was not in place in the Caribbean Community and therefore, Barbados was not in breach of any of its CARICOM obligations in removing those persons, whose presence in the country was neither sanctioned by the immigration laws, nor by any of the provisions agreed within CARICOM.
"Looking at the bigger picture, it is clear that the mass migration of poorer people in search of better conditions is now a worldwide problem. We, therefore, have to ask some serious questions, for example, is it not in the best interest of the?? more developed countries of our rapidly globalising world that there be more equitable development across the globe?" he queried.
Mr. Thompson called on developed nations to help the lesser developed countries find employment and essential services for their citizens to "prevent the invasion of economic refugees".
Turning to the subject of regional integration, the Prime Minister stated that because Barbados was forthright at this time in embracing the full freedom of movement of persons without some of the underlying issues, especially the matter of contingent rights being seriously dealt with, this country was being charged with abdicating its responsibilities.
In response to critics, Mr. Thompson questioned whether it was responsible to charge headlong behind a noble ideal "whose time has not yet come, only to trip over all the obstacles that we have clearly seen, defined and in some cases studied,?? but left unresolved".
He avowed that full regional integration was needed not only for historical, social, and cultural reasons by the people of the Caribbean, but it was also necessary for survival in the global marketplace.
The Prime Minister suggested that there were some prerequisites for this inevitable outcome, and one of these, was the establishment of the infrastructure to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services throughout the region. However, he argued that free movement would only be tolerated when it was closely related to prosperity.
He issued a challenge to those persons who had grown impatient and "who wished to setback the unrelenting movement towards this goal, to get off the fence and do something to aid economic enfranchisement of our people".
The 1989 Grand Anse Declaration was the catalyst for the establishment of the modern CSME. It advocated free movement of the skilled and professional workers, as well as for contract workers on a project or seasonal basis.