Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith speaking to journalists in Montego Bay said Cabinet had now put in place a protocol "whereby if you are a Haitian businessperson travelling with a US (United States of America), Schengen or Canadian visa, and we have added UK (United Kingdom), you will not require an additional visa to enter Jamaica.”
“Apparently it was inconsistently applied, and this is in fact because of a Caricom (Caribbean Community) heads decision that was taken previously with the agreement of Haiti-recognising their infrastructural weakness at the time, and therefore needed to be phased in to allow that where a particular vetting process had already taken place that Jamaica recognised, through our own international arrangements, that we in turn recognise those,” Johnson-Smith said.
In addressing the matter, CARICOM Chairman, Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained: “So in the same way that we would want our rights to be observed with other countries, it is the same way that other country would want us to observe their right as part of the integration process. But with rights come responsibilities, so the rights are not unbounded. It comes with the understanding that the countries who are participating will put in place the mechanism to ensure that the rights can be realised without infringement of other people's rights.” Holness said.
He continued: “Freedom of movement of people in the region doesn't mean that criminals are also free to move. It doesn't mean that people who would become a burden on the public purse would be free to move, or persons with health issues would be free to move. So, there has to be systems put in place to track, detect and give advance warning.”
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it was the view of her Cabinet, that demanding Haitians to obtain visas before travelling to CARICOM member states "breaches the fundamental tenets that bind us under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.”
Barbados Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson said with Haiti being a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), there was no logical reason to impose visa requirements on its citizens.
“It should not have been on in the first place. I was shocked to learn that on Saturday,” Hinkson said.
“That is clear law . . . that was absolutely incorrect. If Haiti is a member of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas speaks to non-discrimination and equal treatment, how can you have put on visa requirements on Haitians? Why do we do this to our own people?”
Hinkson also revealed that his ministry was in the process of preparing a white paper on immigration with a view to deepening the integration movement and this country’s relationship with the rest of the region.
“We are going to look clearly at reforming the immigration legislation of Barbados as well as the policies of it. Clearly our Immigration Act is outdated,” he said, going on to make reference to a section of the legislation which bars “imbeciles and mentally and physically handicapped persons” from entering the country.
At the CARICOM Inter Sessional meeting in Haiti in February, then Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart expressed concern that citizens of Haiti had to obtain visas in order to travel to a number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states.
Stuart told journalists that “The Legal Affairs Committee is being commissioned to look at all the issues surrounding Haiti's membership and to advise the [Heads of Government] Conference for July as to whether there is any legal basis for denying Haitians rights, which all other Caricom members enjoy,” he said.
He observed that this requirement was an anomaly in Caricom arrangements, noting that Haiti had the largest population of all Caricom members, yet its citizens were being forced to obtain visas to enter most regional countries in circumstances, Where other Caricom English-speaking members do not have to satisfy that requirement.”
In 1997, Heads of Government agreed to admit Haiti as a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market subject to agreement on the terms and conditions as required by Article 29 (2) of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
In 1999 the Government of Haiti formally accepted the agreement setting out the terms and conditions of irts entry and by July 2002 had completed the necessary legal requirements.
At the 23rd meeting of Heads of Government of the Community in Georgetown in July 2002, Haiti was formally admitted as the 15th member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market.
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