Updated Tuesday July 6, 2021, 11:28 PM by Denis Chabrol
The Caribbean Community of 15 Nations (CARICOM) justified the imposition of visa restrictions on Tuesday, weeks after Guyana reinstated those requirements for Haitians coming here over concerns over people smuggling to neighboring countries.
Speaking at a press conference at the end of a regional leaders’ summit, CARICOM President Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne agreed that nationals of member states who are part of the regional single market have the right to move freely. However, he says CARICOM member states can take steps to prevent massive and illegal migration of Haitians to prevent violations of immigration rules. Mr. Browne says the issue has been raised with Haiti in the past. “It has been a vexatious question not necessarily in line with the requirements of the treaty, but we have to be pragmatic about these things,” he said.
The CARICOM president noted that member states have had to take action to curb the movement of Haitians, especially those who have violated protocols but have instead been smuggled into various countries in the region. “It is one thing to have the right to move, but if you do not respect the administrative and legal provisions and you are smuggled into the country, measures must obviously be taken to protect the integrity of the host state, “he said. .
When specifically asked if there are any exceptions to free movement in the revised CARICOM Treaty of Chaguaramas, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said the treaty provides for exceptions based on public health and morality.
But Mr La Roque says there is evidence of illegal activity involving Haitians who, under normal circumstances, will have “free access” to enter like other CARICOM nationals, but there is more and more evidence that they are victims of trafficking. “As has been evident in a number of member states, and this is a very worrying situation – and this is something that we had actually raised with the Haitian government itself – but there seem to be people who take advantage of Haitian nationals and sometimes enter legally but exit legally and that, in itself, does not comply with the laws, ”added the Secretary General of CARICOM.
The Guyanese government said thousands of Haitians entered Guyana legally but left illegally for Brazil, Suriname and French Guyana.
On June 22, President Irfaan Ali revoked a 2019 immigration order that lifted visa restrictions for Haitians and granted them an automatic six-month stay in Guyana. By this decision, only Haitians traveling with diplomatic passports would be allowed to enter Guyana without a visa.
Meanwhile, the Haitian Support Group in Guyana is considering taking legal action to challenge the need for Haitians to obtain visas on the grounds that it is a violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Activist Vanda Radzik, who is associated with this group, insists that Haitians enjoy the right of free movement. “Haitians have the right to travel anywhere in the damn Caribbean. It is their right and it is covered by the treaty and if they want to go and go somewhere where they have families looking for a better life, who are we to stop them, ”he said. she stated on a virtual forum earlier this week.
Article 45 of this treaty stipulates that “the Member States undertake to achieve the objective of the free movement of their nationals within the Community”. There are specific categories of persons eligible for free movement in the CARICOM single market.
Currently, only two CARICOM countries do not require Haitians to obtain visas.