Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, today dismissed as “propaganda” claims that this island could suffer a social fallout as a result of granting contingent rights to spouses and dependants of CARICOM skilled nationals.
He was briefing journalists at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on the outcome of the mid-term CARICOM summit held last week in St. Kitts.
Last Friday, Parliament passed the Caribbean Community Amendment Bill 2019 to bring the protocol into force. It extends basic rights to the spouse, young children and dependent parents of skilled CARICOM nationals in the host territory.
Along with skilled nationals, their immediate family members are allowed to enter and leave the country without restrictions, while the spouse would not require a work permit in order to seek employment.
As it relates to education and health care, Barbados, whose Prime Minister has traditionally held lead responsibility for the CSME’s implementation, has moved a step further and granted children of skilled CARICOM nationals access to education at both primary and secondary levels. It has also made provision for these families to access primary health care.
The other CARICOM member states have undertaken to implement these additional benefits in the future, said.
Contrary to social media messages spreading “misinformation”, he explained that the protocol only applied to registered CARICOM skilled nationals.
Comissiong told journalists: “It is only a CARICOM national who comes to Barbados with a CARICOM Skills Certificate that is accepted in Barbados, that is able to find work in Barbados, that is then given permission by the Barbados Government to reside and work indefinitely.
“It is that person, only that person, who is granted the right for their spouse [and] children to join them.”
The Government’s envoy to the regional integration system declared it would be “wrong” to deny individuals basic and fundamental rights.
But he also sought to assure that there was no need to fear the free movement of skilled nationals, reiterating that host territories stood to benefit from the expertise of these individuals, as well as economically,
through their tax contributions and spending power.
The first CARICOM skilled nationals were registered here in 2006.
He added that contrary to popular belief, the number of people entering Barbados under the CARICOM Skilled Nationals Programme was “small”, while stating that he was awaiting official figures from the Barbados Accreditation Council.
Comissiong further stated that Barbados was more likely to take advantage of this programme, since very few of the other islands offered Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs) at this time, which artisans must have in order to be recognised as skilled nationals.
Other categories of skilled nationals in the programme include artistes, media workers, sportspeople, teachers, nurses, domestic workers and agricultural workers.
Comissiong urged Barbadians to explore opportunities within the neighbouring islands.