|Prime Minister Freundel Stuart|
Barbados is not restricting bona fide Caribbean citizens from working on its shores.
This point was stressed yesterday by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he addressed the opening ceremony of the 32nd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, in St.Kitts.
In a passionate speech, Mr. Stuart responded to charges in some quarters that Barbados was not fully doing its part with regard to facilitating the free movement of Caribbean nationals. He said: "Barbados is fully compliant with its CARICOM obligations with respect to the free movement of the 10 categories of workers specified under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and subsequent decisions of Heads. This is not my subjective view. Rather, it is based on the findings of the Secretariat Appraisal Report."
However, in outlining Barbados’ position, the Prime Minister stressed that the free movement of persons could only be achieved "through a phased and managed approach" which did not strain the absorptive capacity of those countries which are the principal recipients and produced "severe skills deficits in those which are the principal exporters".
Mr. Stuart further indicated that Barbados also allowed CARICOM nationals who fell outside the categories specified under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to find employment, but this was done on a "case-by-case basis". He said this was evidenced by the granting of 36 long stay and 1,577 short stay work permits last year alone. "In 2010, 173,106 CARICOM nationals were admitted into Barbados, while only 651, or 0.3 per cent were refused entry," Mr. Stuart pointed out.
"We are one of only three members which have thus far set up the required National Accreditation Councils to certify and verify the requisite skills. From 2006 to the end of 2010, the Barbados authorities have issued 725 Skills Certificates to CARICOM nationals from the 12 CSME participating member states, including our own, and have verified over 1500 such certificates.?? Since the inception of the regime to the end of 2010, 1777 persons have been granted Indefinite Stay in Barbados and 77 persons have moved under the rights of establishment category.?? These figures do not include those dependents who accompany the primary movers," he remarked.??
The Prime Minister told the regional gathering that Barbados was committed to "the smooth and transparent operations of this vital regime", but, he insisted that the rules under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas had to be "scrupulously applied, both to facilitate those legitimately eligible to benefit from its provisions and to ensure that the criminal and fraudulent element of our societies are not given free rein to manipulate the system, to the detriment of all."
Admitting that Barbados was often criticised for its rigorous checks, Mr. Stuart indicated that any instances of duplication and delay would be addressed. He, however, maintained that the principle of due diligence on which Barbados’ reputation for order and probity had always rested, would "not be abandoned".??
"Due diligence has in fact revealed some most creative scams by putative free movers, the most notorious of whom was detained as a guest of Her Majesty’s prison in Barbados. The sobering aspect of his case is the fact that the bogus credentials he carried – in medicine believe it or not – had been duly certified by an official agency in his home country, whose irate communications and charges that Barbados was harassing its skilled nationals were naturally the subject of some considerable embarrassment after the fact," he revealed.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas identifies three categories of CARICOM nationals who can move to member states to pursue economic activity. They are: skilled nationals; service providers and persons desirous of setting up a business (Rights of Establishment).