Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have signed an agreement outlining the path to take in improving free trade and free movement arrangements between the two countries.
The signing of the agreement follows two-days of talks between Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. A.J. Nicholson, and his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Hon. Winston Dookeran, stemming from a recent incident in which 13 Jamaicans were refused entry into the twin island republic.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on Tuesday, December 3, immediately following the talks, Minister Nicholson informed that among the decisions coming out of the discussions, was the need for hassle-free movement for Jamaicans into Trinidad and Tobago, stressing that this must be applied in conformity with Community Law.
“Given the paradigm shift in immigration law and procedures in relation to the treatment of CARICOM nationals entering countries of the region, both our countries recognised the need for a common approach and interpretation of the law,” Minister Nicholson stated.
He said it was also agreed that there must be a review of national legislation, to ensure uniformity in the application of the Shanique Myrie ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In addition, it was underscored that immigration officials, in exercising their discretion on entry or refusal, must show respect to each person seeking to enter the respective jurisdiction.
Mr. Nicholson also told journalists that notwithstanding the fact that a significant number of Jamaicans have entered Trinidad and Tobago without any difficulty within the last year, it was agreed that the immigration authorities of both countries must cooperate in addressing allegations of profiling.
In this regard, the two countries have agreed to cooperate in a number of areas in an effort to preserve the integrity of the regional integration movement and the implementation of the decisions of the Heads of Government regarding the Free Movement of Nationals.
They have also agreed to the recognition of skills certificates and the adoption of relevant legislation to allow for the hassle-free travel of all ten categories of skilled nationals.
In the meantime, Minister Dookeran said as part of the agreement with Jamaica, his government will be implementing a sensitisation training programme for immigration officials in that country to ensure that their decisions are in line with Community Law.
“We will establish a sensitisation programme for all those who are responsible for implementing immigration policies, whether it is through workshops or seminars,” he said.
“We assure that in due course we will be able to modify the behaviour of those, who are in charge of dealing with immigration matters to reflect the Community Law,” he added.
Mr. Dookeran said he has also agreed to increased cooperation between the immigration departments of the two countries. This, he said, will involve the exchange of data and information on a “hands-on basis”, so that there is a reduction in speculation and misinformation.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker