News & Current Affairs, CARICOM Affairs - Thursday, May 14, 2009 20:20
Ralph Gonzalves blasts Barbados’ immigration policy, threatens CSME withdrawalBy Antillean, News Monitor Service
Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves
St. Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has lashed out at Barbados’ new immigration policies regarding illegal Caribbean immigrants, saying that such policies could collapse the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Delivering a ministerial statement in St. Vincent’s House of Parliament today, Gonsalves also charged that Vincentians were discriminated against by neighbouring territories and hinted that his country might also consider withdrawing from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
He named Guyana, Grenada, St. Lucia and Jamaica as suffering the same discriminatory fate.
In a speech punctuated with emotion, Gonsalves said every member of state was not abiding by the letter and the spirit of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramus.
“In one or two-member countries, the immigration authorities are dismissive of their countries’ treaty commitments. My office receives heart-rending stories of Vincentian nationals who have been subjected to unfair, unconscionable, and discriminatory treatment by some immigration authorities within member states of CARICOM.”
He also announced that a letter outlining the circumstances had been sent to Prime Minister David Thompson.
“It is sad to note that in the 21st century, some responsible persons, including some political leaders are stoking chauvinistic fires which are latent in our Caribbean societies.This has led here and there to an outpouring of a malignant xenophobia particularly against Guyanese, Jamaicans, Vincentians, St. Lucians and Grenadians.
“This must be stopped if not CARICOM would shortly be rent asunder,” he added.
In an apparent reference to Barbados, the Vincentian leader said it was historically tempting for him (Thompson) to bash immigrants at times of domestic economic difficulties.
“But to do so against one’s CARICOM brothers and sisters is surely unacceptable . . . .
“My government is being patient with CARICOM and we will never lightly abandon the CSME. But the discriminatory antics against our nationals by some immigration authorities must stop,” he said.
Gonsalves said his government had gone way beyond the treaty and had accomodated CARICOM nationals who were not yet entitled to the right of unemployment.
In response, Thompson said he “had not heard or seen the verbatim statement” of Gonsalves, but indicated he had been invited to attend the next meeting of OECS leaders in Tortola.
“I am sure there will be adequate opportunity for Prime Minister Gonsalves and myself to speak to matters of mutual interest and concern either at the bilateral or multilateral level,” Thompson said.
Thompson recently announced a new policy which gives CARICOM illegal immigrants until December 1 to apply for immigrant status. Those who remain on the island illegally after the date will be deported, he said.
Despite his criticism of Barbados and its policy of self interest, Gonzales has nonetheless expressed his desire to join ALBA (The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), and he is the only CARICOM leader to establish diplomatic ties with Iran. While these may bode well for St. Vincent, neither of these moves is in the spirit of CARICOM, whose other major tenet is cooperative foreign policy between member states.
Portions of this story were adapted from the Daily Nation.
See also A Taboo Critique of the CSME.
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