Caribbean labour body tells illegal migrants to get straight

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 29, 2009 – As debate continues about a move by the Barbados government to clamp down on illegal immigrants, the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) has urged all undocumented Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals living here to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the government to regularize their status.

In a statement issued as controversy swirled around the decision announced by Prime Minister David Thompson, the CCL said it made more sense for those who know they are living in the country illegally to get their documentation in order, as the Thompson administration has requested.

The organisation said that while the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) provides for free movement of persons, it is irresponsible to expect such movement without management.

“The CCL therefore urges that free movement under the CSME must be done within the context of a regional economic plan. It is known that every country is involved in national planning and every added person that provision has not been made for under this planning, increases the shock on the country’s social system. These are the issues that help to create and increase inner city slums, xenophobia and crime,” it said.

The CCL also suggested that rather than point the finger at the Barbados government, regional governments should focus on their responsibility to their own citizens.

“What we should be confronting and debating are the failures of some CARICOM governments in discharging their responsibility to their citizens,” it said. “We cannot have governments in this region who are prepared to put systems in place to force their citizens to migrate to other countries by abrogating their responsibility to create jobs for their citizens.”

Earlier this month, the Barbadian Prime Minister announced that with effect from 1st June 2009, all undocumented CARICOM nationals who entered the country prior to the 31st December, 2005 and remained undocumented for a period of eight years or more, are required to come forward and have their status regularized.

After the amnesty expires, those non-nationals who have not regularized their status will be sent back home.

The move sparked criticism from the country’s opposition and other regional heads, among others, who suggested that Barbados’ move was not in keeping with the spirit of the CSME.