Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ambassador Paul Robotham has cautioned persons against the use of anecdotal or one-off instances to suggest that the freedom of movement provisions under the Caribbean Community (Caricom) regime has not worked for Jamaica.
“More Jamaicans travel to Caricom [states] than Caricom nationals travel to Jamaica. Two hundred and forty-six thousand Jamaicans traveled to Caricom [states] and 6,000 were denied entry (between 2006 and 2013),” the ambassador said. The number denied entry, he said, was 2.45 percent, compared to the 97.5 percent who were allowed entry.
The ambassador was responding to concerns raised by Opposition Committee member Delroy Chuck and government member Mikael Phillips at yesterday’s meeting of the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament in Kingston yesterday.
Chuck wanted to know what was the recourse in the case of the average Jamaican who has been “forced to get a Caricom passport” but when he goes to a Caricom country ends up being treated as a Jamaican and not as a member of Caricom.
“Do you ever foresee that this Caricom passport will be utilized in a way that it is supposed to be utilized — for the free movement of every citizen of Caricom? If the answer is no, do we ever see Article 45 being implemented in our lifetime? Because Article 45 speaks about the free movement of people but I think the smaller states will never. Is Article 45 an illusion or a mirage?”
Phillips, for his part, was of the opinion that the figures presented by the ministry did not reflect the reality on the ground.
“Your report shows that there is no challenge with movement really, but I would think that there is still a large number of our nationals who don’t report. Are we really playing on a level playing field?” Phillips asked, noting that there is a profiling of Jamaicans when visiting other Caricom states. “Will we ever be able to see this free movement of persons?”
Robotham maintained, however, that it was very difficult to prove discrimination on the basis of nationality only. “It’s a rules-based system and it has mechanisms to deal with when the rules are broken, generalizations and anecdotal evidence have their place, but when it comes to the ministry we deal with it case by case,” he told the committee.