15, Number 12
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Barbados immigration practices repugnant to CARICOM
by the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy
The Guyanese-American president of the New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), Rickford Burke, has said that Barbados’s new immigration policy is “divisive” and “supercilious,” and undermines the Caribbean Community.”
“The extant immigration practices in Barbados lack careful thought, have been fundamentally discriminatory and are antithetical to the values of the integration movement,” Burke asserted.
His comments come weeks after Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson, announced a new policy that allow undocumented Caribbean nationals who began residing in Barbados prior to 2005 to be given Barbadian government identification and work permits, but subject those who entered thereafter and remain undocumented to deportation.
Thompson’s policy has come under withering criticism from fellow regional Heads of Government and other individuals, forcing the Prime Minister to make a strong defense last Saturday.
In a statement Tuesday, Burke charged that “Prime Minister Thompson is attempting to build a protectionist wall around Barbados, and has created the perception that “Barbados is only for “Bajans.”
"This is unquestionably repugnant to Caricom and is undermining Caribbean unity,” he added.
Blasting Thompson’s increased deportations and early morning raids against undocumented Caricom nationals, Burke accused the Bajan leader of promoting “national insularity” in the Caribbean and of stoking jingoistic fears in Barbados.”
Guyanese constitute the largest immigrant block in Barbados. The CGID head noted that many Guyanese, particularly those residing in Barbados, believe that immigration enforcement disproportionately and calculatedly targets Guyanese. He said that the Prime Minister’s own statistics, which he disclosed at a press conference last Saturday at Grantley Adams International Airport, validate this assessment.
According to media reports, Thompson disclosed that from June 1 to 26, raids were made on 15 residences between 3 am and 6 am, leading to the detention and removal of 47 non-nationals, 34 of whom were Guyanese.
However, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett yesterday disputed Thompson’s figures, announcing that in May, twenty-nine (29) Guyanese were deported from Barbados, and twenty-four (24) so far for the month of June. In total, 53 Guyanese have been deported from Barbados since Thompson's policy was implemented on May 5, 2009.
Burke labeled the tactics of Barbados immigration authorities as draconian, and more aligned with “George Bush’s” approach to immigration” than Caribbean unity. He condemned the ongoing raids on suspected undocumented nationals as inhumane. “This must stop. These are families who seek a better life in a sister Caribbean state. They deserve to be treated with dignity,” Burke contended.
Responding to Thompson’s widely reported comments that "I have announced a domestic immigration policy that is not a matter for other Caribbean prime ministers to comment on," Burke said. “Those words portend arrogant isolationism.”
“We agree that everyone must abide by the law and that anyone who commits crimes must be brought to justice. However, this must be within the framework of the rule of law, rules and spirit of Caricom, as well as international norms of civil rights and fundamental fairness,” Burke stressed.
He noted that “We also agree that immigration policy throughout the region needs to be reformed and rationalized. In this context, unilateral, singular and uncoordinated action by one government, is counterproductive to a harmonized regional policy approach that promotes deeper integration, which we all seek."
“The Caribbean Community is plagued by illiberalness and barren commitment to genuine integration. Some Heads of Government go to Caricom conferences and agree to decisions they have no intentions of implementing. As the integration and implementation process intensifies and the ramifications become real, their posture then become one of ambivalence and insularity. This is unacceptable and they must be called on it,” the CGID president said.
He cited Barbados’ immigration policy as well as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as prime examples. In a reference to OECS countries, The Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad, Burke said that it is insulting to the people of the region that these countries do not recognize the Appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, but rather cling to the Privy Council which is a relic of the so-called imperial oppression, which some of the very leaders claimed to have fought against. He opined that in Trinidad’s case the circumstance is particularly disgraceful, as the court is based in that country, where its Appellate jurisdiction is not recognized.
"It is such actions or non-action which have caused Caribbean integration to morph into more of a concept rather than reality, as manifested in obvious protectionist and hostile policies, driven by narrow, national interests, the Institute's head said.
Burke called on regional heads to “roundly condemn the Barbadian policy at this week’s Caricom heads' Summit in Guyana.” He especially singled out Guyana's President, Bharrat Jagdeo, and called on him to "stand up and represent Guyanese for once."
Burke also called on Thompson “To halt all draconian immigration practices and confer with his regional counterparts to conceptualize a more “altruistic, uniform and progressive” immigration policy that is congruous with the spirit of Caribbean integration and free movement of peoples, as envisioned by the revised Treaty of Chaguramas.”
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