ANTIGUA – (JIS) Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer says his Government is committed to ensuring that the movement between Caricom nationals in the region becomes as hassle-free as possible, and that the immigration restrictions currently in place be minimised.
The Antiguan Prime Minister was addressing some two thousand Jamaicans living and working in Antigua and Barbuda, at a special meeting called last Saturday(July 5) by the Jamaicans, to discuss issues of concern with their own Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding. Mr Golding led Jamaica’s delegation to the just-concluded 29th regular meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in St John’s , Antigua from July 1-4.
Mr Spencer said he had deliberately decided to attend last night’s meeting to show the Jamaican Government that Antigua supports the struggle on behalf of the people of the Caribbean region. He said he also wanted to dispel doubts that individuals may have of his commitment with respect to the integration movement.
The Antiguan Prime Minister told the Jamaicans that during the Caricom meeting, discussions were held on the time to be allotted to an individual who enters any Caricom country. He said a decision was taken where each member state would have to examine and determine how they would implement the decision. He said there is an arrangement to allow a Caricom national entering the territory to be given a stamp of 6-months. He said that is one of the decisions which were going to be implemented to make the movement as hassle-free as possible.
Mr Spencer said member states were also looking at the possibility of introducing a swipe card with certain features, so that rather than going through the hassle at customs and immigration, Caricom nationals would just swipe the card at the airport and go through.
‘We are trying to make these things as hassle free as possible but it is going to require your co-operation and understanding in order to make the system work because if you try to go around it and create a problem, then you are going to suffer as a result. We are all committed to integrating the people of the Caribbean so we can move freely up and down the region for social interaction, economic development and allowing opportunities to be made available to Caribbean citizens anywhere in the region’, Mr Spencer said . But he noted that in everything, there are rules and regulations and as long as people operated on that basis, there should not be any problem.
The Antiguan Prime Minister noted that Jamaicans represented the second highest of the numbers living in Antigua and Barbuda, outstripped only by Guyana. There are an estimated 12,000 Jamaicans living and working in Antigua and Barbuda, providing services mostly in the hotel and security businesses.