Watching, waiting for CWC free movement
February 5, 2007
THE CARIBBEAN Community's unique experiment in facilitating free intra-regional movement – delinked from passport requirement and traditional immigration hassles – for CARICOM nationals, is now in full swing for a maximum 104 days.
Inaugurated on Thursday, February 1, to last until May 15, it is what Barbados' Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley, has labelled as a "golden period" in laying the foundation for eventual free movement of the region's people.
The challenging process combines specific arrangements to ensure a "safe and secure environment" beyond Cricket World Cup 2007 from March 4 to April 28, with monitoring of the capacity and reliability of intelligence, immigration, customs, international travel and other co-operation mechanisms in place for the 104 days of free movement.
Beneficiaries will be CARICOM nationals as well as an expected 50 000 visitors and more coming for the historic CWC in nine venues plus Dominica – all being done at a shared cost of some US$13 million, and involving cooperation commitments by Britain, United States and Canada.
However, there is a very important caveat to the "freedom of movement" for CARICOM nationals, according to a disclosure by Mottley who, along with Jamaica's National Security Minister Peter Phillips, sits on the special security committee for CWC arrangements under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago.
It relates to a so-called "Watch List" comprising about 4 600 nationals of various CARICOM states who are categorised as deportees or requested to leave jurisdictions for various reasons. They need not seek to benefit from the "golden period" for free movement as they would be treated as "undesirables".
For all other CARICOM nationals, having once entered any of the nine host countries for the CWC, plus Dominica, and had their standardised ED (entry and departure) form stamped by immigration at a port of entry, that document will in effect be their "passport" for entry and departure across the region now being treated as a "single domestic space" experiment.
Foreign visitors arriving for CWC 2007, for whom special visas or special entry permits arrangements have been completed, will similarly share in this experiment of a single domestic space which is viewed as a prelude to the coming "Single Economic Space" with the realisation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
However, within the first two days of implementation of the single domestic space experiment, there were complaints from some hoteliers and other stakeholders of the region's tourism industry.
They have been speaking of cancellations of accommodation due to claimed frustration with the special visa/entry permit arrangements for foreign visitors that has also coincided with the new passport requirement for Americans returning home from overseas.
The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), which has been strident in initial opposition to the time-frame for implementation of the United States passport requirement, has so far been the loudest in criticising the CARICOM visa requirement for foreigners coming for CWC. According to the JHTA, financial losses accruing from cancellations could be over US$30 million by the expiration of the visa regime on May 15.
In contrast, the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, and Secretary-General Edwin Carrington, in particular, continue to project optimism for satisfactory operations of the Community's experiment in "one domestic space" for the defined 104-day period for Caribbean nationals and foreign visitors.
Carrington has hailed the "unparalleled level" of regional and international cooperation to facilitate free movement of people for the CWC as auguring well in the strengthening of CARICOM's integration efforts leading to the establishment of the CSME.
(Courtesy Barbados Nation)