BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The newly elected Mia Mottley-led administration has abolished the “illegal” visa requirement for Haitian nationals entering Barbados.
Telling online newspaper Barbados Today that he was shocked when he learned last weekend that such a requirement was in place, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said with Haiti being a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), there was no logical reason to impose visa requirements on its citizens.
“It should not have been on in the first place. I was shocked to learn that on Saturday,” Hinkson said.
“That is clear law . . . that was absolutely incorrect. If Haiti is a member of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas speaks to non-discrimination and equal treatment, how can you have put on visa requirements on Haitians? Why do we do this to our own people?”
Hinkson also revealed that his ministry was in the process of preparing a white paper on immigration with a view to deepening the integration movement and this country’s relationship with the rest of the region.
“We are going to look clearly at reforming the immigration legislation of Barbados as well as the policies of it. Clearly our Immigration Act is outdated,” he said, going on to make reference to a section of the legislation which bars “imbeciles and mentally and physically handicapped persons” from entering the country.
“We have been mandated to look at that. I mean, you would have heard Prime Minister [of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph] Gonsalves was reported in the press about two weekends ago as saying that Barbados and Trinidad are the worse culprits in terms of offending . . . the Treaty of Chaguaramas in terms of how we treat CARICOM nationals. We have to look at all of that,” the Minister said.
He insisted that Barbados ought to respect the regional conventions and treaties that it has signed, while stressing that with CARICOM being the only region in the world with which Barbados has a trade surplus of over 50 per cent, it was important that the island addresses its relationship with the rest of the Caribbean.
Hinkson also argued that Barbados must play a leadership role in CARICOM, especially since it has lead responsibility for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“Unfortunately, over the past ten years of Democratic Labour Party administration, relations with intra-Caribbean declined when they should have gone forward. After the 2007 [cricket] World Cup we had tremendous cooperation in terms of travel between CARICOM countries for CARICOM nationals
“Clearly we have a duty as Barbadians to the Caribbean to now advance relations with CARICOM nationals. Clearly our immigration policies and legislation have to be part of that reform,” the minister said. (Barbados Today)