CARICOM’s Office of the General Counsel has produced two legal opinions defending the right of Haitians to move freely within CARICOM. Currently, Haitians need a visa to enter CARICOM territories, except Barbados, which abolished the requirement last month.
The matter has been receiving attention from some member states, according to CARICOM’s secretary general, but Grenada contends that Haitians do not have such entitlement based on issues surrounding the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).
“There will be a discussion on Haitian nationals and whether a visa is required for them to enter the Community, that discussion will take place. That was a mandate from the last meeting of heads of government,” said Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, secretary general of CARICOM, yesterday at a press briefing in New Kingston. The 39th summit for the heads of government runs from July 4 to 6 in Montego Bay, St James.
“Based on the law set out in (Shanique) Myrie v The State of Barbados, and on the fact that the Republic of Haiti is a party to the Revised Treaty, and in the absence of a reservation by Haiti excluding participation in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), it was advised that Haitian nationals, as Community nationals, are entitled to an automatic stay of six months,” the Office of the General Counsel argued.
SENSE OF BELONGING AND COMMUNITY
It also pointed out that the heads of government in 2007 decided that all CARICOM nationals should be allowed automatic entry, in a push to enhance their sense of belonging and community. Entry would be denied if citizens were deemed undesirable and if they were likely to be a burden on the public purse.
Grenada disagreed with the position regarding Haiti during a meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development in May and provided member states with a legal opinion.
“Haiti did not participate in the negotiation of the RTC, is not a signatory state of the RTC, and so is not listed in Article 3 of the RTC. Haiti, therefore, could neither have signed nor ratified the RTC,” Grenada asserted.