Thursday 22 August, 2019

Haitians allowed automatic stay in CARICOM with financial prerequisite



Barbados Ambassador-Designate to CARICOM has sought to defuse tempers and dispel rumours that Haitians will now have the ability to flow through the CARICOM islands using up vital resources and funds that should be reserved for locals and the development of residents.

David Comissiong in a press release affirmed that indeed one of the most significant achievements of the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit that was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica between the 4th and 5th of July 2018 was the unanimous decision of the Heads of Government to affirm that nationals of the Republic of Haiti are entitled to an automatic stay of six months upon their arrival in any CARICOM Member State.

This was an outcome of the Summit that the Government of Barbados had earnestly wished for and promoted.

In fact, within some three weeks of assuming office, the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government of Barbados had determined that the policy of requiring nationals of Haiti to secure visas before permitting them to travel to other CARICOM nations (including Barbados) was not only unconscionable but was actually an unlawful breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

Indeed, Barbados’ newly installed Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Edmund Hinkson, expressed himself as follows:-

“If Haiti is a member of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas speaks to non-discrimination and equal treatment, how can you have put visa requirements on Haitians?” before going on to announce that Barbados was immediately abolishing the visa requirements.

However, realising that tongues are wagging without knowing the full story and the implications of the move, Comissiong stressed in the release that "It is important, however, that there be a general understanding, not only in Haiti, but all across the Caribbean Community, that while no CARICOM national need secure a visa in order to travel to Barbados, that it is necessary when visiting Barbados that the traveller be in possession of sufficient financial resources to adequately maintain himself or herself in Barbados without becoming a charge on public funds.

"It should also be noted that this is not a Barbados policy: rather it is a legal stipulation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and an integral component of Caribbean Community Law."

The actual text of the resolution that was adopted at the Heads of Government Summit was as follows:-

“Recognised that Haitian nationals are entitled to an automatic stay of six months upon arrival in CARICOM Member States subject to the rights of CARICOM Member States to refuse undesirable persons entry and to prevent persons becoming a charge on public funds.”

This, then, is a general principle of Community Law that applies not only to Haitians but to nationals of all CARICOM states, including – of course – nationals of Barbados who travel to the other CARICOM Member States.

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