[CMC] Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders ended their three-day summit in Trinidad on Wednesday night agreeing to have the free movement of all categories of people by March 2024.
The arrangement does not extend to Haiti. Prime Minister, Dr Ariel Henry, had asked that the country be excused from the arrangement, given the humanitarian, social and political crisis in the French-speaking Caribbean country.
“Obviously. there are some legal issues that we have to examine. And we have given our legal people some months to examine those issues and to ensure that they can come to us by 30th of March to take a definitive position on this,” Caricom chairman and Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit told a news conference.
“Of course, we have the sort of security agreements in place already that people can benefit from, but we believe this is the fundamental power of the integration architecture and at 50 we could not be here today and not speak about the core of the individual movement, that is people’s ability to move freely within the community, and I think we would have would have served the community well at this meeting by arriving at that decision.”
The Dominican prime minister said that while the regional leaders understood that there would be some challenges for some, “we are committed to this.”
“So this is great news. I think the various issues that we are discussing, the number of decisions we’ve taken, this is the decision that we’ve taken at this conference, and I believe the founding fathers are smiling from heaven,” he said.
He said in addition to the free movement, the issue of contingent rights that will be associated with the initiative will also be examined to provide access to primary health and emergency health, access to basic education, and pre-primary and secondary education.
Previously, under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, persons, skills and labour across the region, the Caricom governments allowed for the free movement of media workers, artistes, musicians, sports persons, nurses, teachers, artisans with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification and holders of Associate Degrees or comparable qualification.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who has lead responsibility for the CSME within the quasi-Caricom Cabinet, said that the leaders of the 15-member grouping had decided to fully liberalise the free movement of all categories of persons across the Single Market by early next year and to amend the Treaty of Chaguaramas to guarantee them access to a limited number of services.
She said the treaty would be amended to harmonise the expectations of Caribbean people when they move through the region.