Five months after removing visa requirements for Haitians to enter Barbados, Government is tinkering with the idea of placing new travel restrictions on the French-speaking neighbour.
This revelation comes from Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), David Comissiong.
Making it clear that legally Barbados cannot return to the days of visa requirements, Comissiong told Barbados TODAY that Government was meeting on Friday to consider a number of options including adopting a policy similar to one used by Dominica.
The Eastern Caribbean territory is demanding that Haitians pay a US$400 bond before entering the country. The monies are returned once visitors leave within the permissible period of stay. However, in cases where the traveller overstays and the return ticket becomes invalid, the bond would be used to purchase the new ticket. This removes any risk to the public coffers.
“Barbados could follow the Dominica example and I have already written to the Dominica Ambassador to CARICOM asking them for a full outline of this bond system that they have implemented, the mechanics of it and how it is working. So that is something that Barbados could possibly do,” said Comissiong.
While he did not have actual arrival numbers to support his assertion, Comissiong told Barbados TODAY that the number of Haitians who have come looking for work has reached worrying levels. He explained that within weeks of Barbados announcing the visa waiver, Copa Airlines began servicing routes between Haiti and Barbados twice per week, providing consistent airlift overnight to a route that previously had none.
In addition, even though CARICOM has ruled that the visa restriction is illegal under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, only six territories have lifted the restrictions for Haitians. This means that Barbados is among the few territories bearing the brunt of the inflows.
Comissiong, therefore, contended that Government should also consider mandating greater immigration screening at the port of entry.
“Another possibility would be for the immigration to be more stringent with who they allow in and who they refuse. The immigration has the right to refuse entry to persons that come under the mistaken belief that they can work. They can also be more stringent in determining if persons have sufficient financial resources,” he noted.
The ambassador revealed that while the country remains fully committed to embracing Haiti, the current roll-back of the visas now creates conditions for confusion. According to Comissiong, since Barbados granted the visa waiver last August, Haitians have been coming to Barbados thinking they had the right to reside and work.
Last month, a group of Haitians evicted from a house at Bonnetts, Brittons Hill, St Michael, as calling on local authorities to help them find temporary accommodation and to fund return tickets to their homeland. The young men said they had come here in search of a better life. However, they said they found no jobs and exhausted their limited finances. The matter gained national attention, as weeks later the group was still unable to get back to Haiti and remained at the mercy of several local charities.
At the time the ambassador shared a document with Barbados TODAY, which was sent to the Haitian government, making it clear that its citizens were not entitled to work in Barbados, and also outlining the terms on which they may visit the island.