An Opposition senator has lauded renewed efforts by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to work with the Eastern Caribbean countries to ease travel among nationals of the sub-region.
Caswell Franklyn this morning threw his support behind Mottley, who yesterday told leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) who had issued a special invitation to the Barbadian leader to attend their 65th summit in St Lucia, that she intended to deepen regional integration and free movement of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals.
Franklyn told Barbados TODAY free movement was never an issue in pre-independence days, but countries had become insular after they gained political independence.
“Before we were independent, we had free travel. When every country became a state within itself, everybody started to put on restrictions on the same people who were able to travel freely and live in this place. We were integrated . . . from the bottom up. They [governments] imposed top-down integration and put restrictions on people who were making it work,” the Opposition senator said.
Franklyn, a trade unionist, insisted that all the existing restrictions should be removed and every Caribbean national ought to be allowed to “come and go as they please”.
“Cut out all of these foolish restrictions. It is unnecessary . . . .We are one people,” he stressed.
There was also support for Mottley from political scientists Christina Hinds and Tennyson Joseph, both of whom suggested that free movement of CARICOM nationals was long overdue.
“If we are serious about regionalism, these are things that should have happened a long time ago,” Hinds told Barbados TODAY.
“People may have some security concerns relating to allowing people to enter the country more easily. But, really, I don’t know how a passport provides that added level of security that people seem to believe that it does,” Hinds added in support of a call by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines for Barbados to replace its passport requirement for OECS citizens with a photo identification card.
The University of the West Indies political scientist argued these efforts would be welcomed in pushing integration at the regional level considering that the OECS has gone much further in its integration process than the wider CARICOM grouping.
Meantime, while praising the renewed attempts by Mottley to reach out to the Eastern Caribbean, Joseph said he would wait and see if the Prime Minister’s concrete proposals would be implemented.
Joseph said Mottley’s efforts were not new since former BLP leader and Prime Minister Owen Arthur had made similar overtures, but the Democratic Labour Party had adopted a different approach over the past ten years.
“I am hoping that it is not a one-off thing that comes when there is a new Barbados Labour Party Prime Minister for the region. That is something we have seen before . . . and I guess our attention would have to turn to see if it goes beyond just a set of nice announcements to something more concrete,” he said.
The political scientist also told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that Mottley’s initiatives augured well for Barbados’ role in terms of regionalism and the part this country has historically played in fostering integration.
During Mottley’s address yesterday she proposed that travellers who are in transit at Caribbean ports-of-entry for more than two hours should no longer be prohibited from leaving the airports.
“I am conscious that wherever I go in the Eastern Caribbean, there are those who are concerned about the manner in which they are allowed to move within our ports-of-entry and in particular also my own. And that with respect to those who are traveling in transit the inability to be able to clear immigration if you are there for longer than two hours, continues to be of major concern to many of our citizens. It makes no sense,” Mottley complained, adding that such a practice limits the extent to which those who visit are capable of adding to the economic activity in the various countries.
The Prime Minister had said that before leaving Barbados for the OECS meeting, she sought to find out what legal obstacles were preventing in transit regional neighbours from leaving the airport and she was yet to receive an answer that made sense.
She said that as a result, she wanted the OECS leaders to make this matter a priority, “because our people are precluded from doing that which is most natural. If you are in a port of entry for more than six or eight hours there is no reason to be treated like a prisoner of war”.
Barbados TODAY also reported exclusively yesterday that Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson had revealed that Barbados had abolished the visa requirements for Haitian nationals entering this country.