Caricom talks trade and travel
Caricom leaders holding their annual summit in Guyana are reported to be giving serious consideration to setting up an agency that will be responsible for ensuring that decisions taken are implemented.
That has been one of the main criticisms of Caricom by some of its own member governments, the private sector, civil society and the public.
BBC Caribbean understands that various options are being looked at for the regional decision-implementation agency.
Meanwhile, Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding has also been restating his frustrations on trade and commitments by regional governments.
He said, despite the existence of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) member states face too many barriers when attempting to do business with each other.
And he said businessmen in Kingston are already looking to other markets.
“I have Jamaican exporters who say can’t bother with Caricom. It’s too much hassle. ‘We are looking to North America, to Brazil, we are looking to Colombia’.
“They are prepared to pay duties in other markets rather than trying to take on the burden of the difficulties of doing business in Caricom,” the Jamaican prime minister said.
Mr Golding also added his voice to the debate on decisions by Antigua and Barbados to review their immigration policies, to tackle illegal immigration.
He said Caribbean governments should not adopt a unilateral position on the matter, and called for more dialogue among his colleagues, to address those concerns.
Immigration is a contentious subject at the Guyana summit.
The issue has reached fever pitch over accusations by Guyanese deportees from Barbados that they were being mistreated by that country’s immigration authorities.
Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson has defended his immigration department and his government’s immigration policies.
“Unrestricted freedom of movement is not in place in (Caricom)”, Mr Thompson stated.
He went on: “Barbados is not in breach of any of its treaty obligations in removing those persons whose presence in our country is sanctioned, neither by our immigration laws nor by any of the provisions within Caricom, to which we have agreed.”
He also announced that a special division was being set up to investigate claims of mistreatment by illegal migrants.
Mr Thompson’s government has also instituted an amnesty until November 30, for illegal migrants to get their status regularised or be deported.
His policy of ‘managed migration’ is based on burdens, mainly cost, being placed on the country’s social services by illegal immigrants.
The Barbadian prime minister has described freedom of movement as a noble idea whose time has not yet come.
The President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, has continued to voice concerns over allegations of mistreatment of Guyanese in Barbados.
“This sets back the integration movement, if we can treat people who come to our region, sometimes with a little backpack, a slipper and short pants, better than we treat (of the region).
“It really undermines the whole integration process,” he stated.
Most of of the deportees from Barbados have been Guyanese, who make up a large proportion of the immigrant population.
St Lucia solution
Meanwhile, St Lucia's Prime Minister Stephenson King has urged Caricom member states to imitate his country's soft approach to intra-regional immigration issues.
St Lucia has also had an amnesty for illegal Caribbean migrants, but says no one has been deported.
He says Caribbean leaders need to indicate whether they wish to proceed with regional integration.
He said he considered the approach by the Barbados governments as being “perhaps a little over-anxious in an endeavour to promote true nationalism or patriotism.”
He said in St Lucia the policy has been “one of great tolerance and courtesy.”
An Antiguan answer?
Finding a solution to the thorny immigration issue is vital.
Before heading off to Guyana for the summit, Prime Miniser Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer told BBC Caribbean what he was going to suggest to his Caricom colleagues.
He wants Caricom to press ahead with an audit of the impact of movement of Caricom nationals within the region.
“You take each member state and you look at the situation there (and you assess) the impact that it is having.
“As we move towards allowing people with other skills to move freely, you need to look at the impact that may be having on each member state."
According to Prime Minister Spencer: "When you do that you will then be able to determine exactly how we are going to apply this thing.”