CARICOM'S Free Movement Démarche set to begin March 31, 2024

CARICOM'S Free Movement Démarche set to begin March 31, 2024

GEORGETOWN,  Guyana March 14, 2024 -   At the end of March 2024, the CSME Free movement regime that CARICOM has been working on for the past ten or so year is expected to come into operation.

During the closing press conference following the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Guyana, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley who has responsibility for the CSME, said that CARICOM is on track to make a single economy within the region a reality.

“As you know, people have the right to move now, for six months without question, what we are talking about is removing that six-months constraint but equally have to understand what are the minimum rights that are guaranteed to our citizens when they move from one country to another and those are being resolved and settled now,” PM Mottley stated.

Barbados’  CARICOM Ambassador David Commissiong, explained that “the Freedom of Movement regime was actually agreed upon at the December 2018 Special Heads of Government Meeting on the CSME that was held in Port of Spain.”

In July 2023, again in Port of Spain, CARICOM Heads reconfirmed the decision, and set a deadline of 31 March 2024. However, he explained that the deadline is only in respect of making the necessary amendments to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

After 31st March, there will be a 3-year Transition Period to put all the national legislation and administrative procedures in place.

In addition, there will also be a 7 year Transition Period for host member states to provide certain basic services - health, education etc. - on the same terms as their Citizens.

 According to Commissiong, “the right to move and reside will also continue to be subject to such restrictions as -- the person must not be a credible threat to national security, nor likely to be a charge on the public purse.

“The reality is that only a very small minority of our people will opt to exercise this right to live indefinitely and work in another CARICOM state. The vast majority will remain persons who visit for a temporary period,” the Barbados ambassador said.

“If there is any danger in these new arrangements, it is more likely to be states losing some of their most productive citizens to another State, rather than a State being flooded with incoming migrants and not being able to cope.

“But, in any event, even if that unlikely scenario were to occur and a State was to find itself under undue financial stress, the Treaty gives Governments the power to temporarily suspend the programme.

“There is really nothing to worry about. It is just that some people fear and resist ANY change.

“It should be noted that both the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) and the CARICOM Private Sector Organization (CPSO) gave their approval to the new Free Movement regime.

“It should also be noted that Haiti will not be part of the regime in its initial stages -- because of the exceptional circumstances enveloping Haiti.

“Antigua and Barbuda has opted not to participate at the outset. However, they will continue to facilitate Movement via the CARICOM Skilled Nationals programme ambassador Commissiong pointed out.

In the meantime, Citizens of CARICOM countries will be able to travel throughout the region for an extended period beyond the current six-month stay restriction. 

CARICOM Leaders met in July last year to finalize the timeline for the free movement of citizens within the region. Despite a few policy issues, Ms. Mottley is confident that the timeline will be met.

“There were just two policy issues that were referred to Heads for us to settle and they will meet back on the seventh of March.  The legal Affairs Committee will sign off on the drafts on the eight of March, and the Heads of Government will meet on the 15th March with the hope that we can sign of in time, the deadline given in Trinidad for the 31st of March for the full freedom of movement of people,” Prime Minister Mottley stated.

The Move will also ease the burden of doing business in the region. The CARICOM leaders have agreed to work to get the mutual recognition of countries across the community settled by July and pave the way to allowing businesses to set up their companies in various CARICOM countries without having to pay to do so.

“To allow people the right to move and then tell them they have to pay separate sums to form the same company, doing the same business, in each other the country that they are going in is a burden too heavy for you carry in a single market and in a single economy,” The Barbadian Prime Minister noted. 

CARICOM countries have also agreed to set up a digital platform, where the services and other important information relating to CARICOM will be addressed.

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