With the ongoing political unrest taking place in Haiti, the chances of the Mia Mottley-led Government taking a second look at visa-free entry for Haitians desirous of coming to Barbados, are slim.
This revelation was made by Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong who told Barbados TODAY that he has been unable to get a meeting with the Haitian government in order to discuss conditionalities for considering lifting the visa restrictions for a second time.
“Haiti has really serious problems at the moment. I have been trying to lead a Barbados contingent to Haiti since January of this year. Barbados was very keen to go to Haiti to have talks to see how we, in whatever small way, can help Haiti to solve some of its developmental problems but we have not been able to go because for the whole year, Haiti has been in turmoil,” Comissiong said.
“Sometimes the airport has been shut down or there are times that the government is so distracted that there is no one available to meet with us. So, until we can get some political stability in Haiti, where the Government is not being contested in such an extreme way, it would be difficult to sit and discuss the way forward for our relationship, which includes entry requirements,” he further explained.
Soon after coming to power in May 2018, the Mia Mottley administration contended that a long-time practice of requesting entry visas from Haitians was an injustice and ran counter to the Treaty of Chaguaramas. But the removal of this restriction coincided with introduction of Copa Airlines flights from Panama to Barbados that provided an easy air link for Haitians desperate for work.
Back in January, Comissiong had expressed concern that the roll-back of the visas was not going according to plan as it created conditions for confusion. He noted then that since granting the visa waiver last August, Haitians have been coming to Barbados thinking they had the right to reside and work.
As a consequence, a group of Haitians, who travelled to Barbados under such a notion, found themselves stranded. The men were evicted from a house at Bonnetts, Brittons Hill, St Michael, and called 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 local charities.
With the prospect of more persons becoming burdens on the state, Barbados triggered an exemption clause in the Treaty and re-imposed visa restrictions as a temporary measure to halt the influx.
However, this morning Comissiong told Barbados TODAY that he has not given up on the goal of facilitating free movement between the two CARICOM countries.
“We know that we owe a great debt to Haiti and every black person should want to do what they can to help Haiti out of the quagmire that they are in. But, we have to first find that way to get political stability. Once there is a stable government that we can sit and talk with, then we can gradually work through the problems that we have. I would love to see inward migration from Haiti to Barbados. Haiti leads the Caribbean in art, and I would love to see Haitian artists coming to Barbados and bringing their skills. We need managed migration that is not unstable or chaotic and it is only then that Barbados would benefit,” he stressed.
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