Ambassador to CARICOM Robert “Bobby” Morris says the country did not contravene the free movement of people regime when an immigration officer ordered a Haitian woman to pay for a visa.
“Haiti is not a full member of CARICOM and would not enjoy the same benefits under the Single Market and Economy,” he said in the wake of the complaint by Rachel Lalanne. She complained to the St Vincent media that she was treated as a criminal when she arrived in Barbados on November 20.
Lalanne said she was forced to overnight at the Grantley Adams International Airport after missing her connecting flight to St Vincent and was ordered to pay US$100 for a Barbados visa.
“I said, ‘Haiti is part of CARICOM. Why is it I have to pay $100?’ She [the Immigration officer] said, ‘Well I don’t make the rules. If you go to the US, you have to pay $200 for a visa’; but I said, ‘We’re not talking about the US’,” Lalanne said.
“. . . She was very rude. I say, ‘Miss, it’s not the point you’re [making], it’s the manner [in which] you’re doing it –– like I’m some criminal; how you pull me in the room.”
But Ambassador Morris said Barbados’ immigration officers were well versed in handling such matters.
“She [Lalanne] is wrong. She would have no automatic right to come to Barbados,” he said.
A CARICOM diplomat told Barbados TODAY that CARICOM had agreed to grant a waiver to Haitian diplomats and businesspeople, but not ordinary citizens of the French-speaking country.
“It is not irregular. Ordinary Haitians are not covered under the free movement arrangement. Haiti is still a work in progress as it relates to the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas. There is a CARICOM Desk in Haiti to help the government pass the necessary legislation to give effect to certain requirements,” the official said.
A video posting on the issue has sparked much debate on social media.
It comes in the wake of the recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case. The Jamaican woman was awarded $75, 000 in costs after the Court ruled that she had a right of entry into Barbados under the CARICOM treaty.