Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 07, 2017 (SKNIS): Prime Minister and Minister of National Security of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, has said that his government is moving to review its immigration policy in light of “certain evolving realities” such as human and narco trafficking, while at the same time preserving the “federation as a friendly and welcoming country.”
Speaking to the local press at the recently concluded 87th Meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) on March 02, 2017, Dr. Harris said “we felt we needed to do a revisiting of the immigration policy that addresses these new realities in a more comprehensive way and yet at the same time we believe it is in the national interest of every country to protect its borders in the matters of the porous nature of our borders that glare us in the eyes everyday as we discuss security issues, as we discuss the movement of contraband, as we discuss issues related to the illicit movement of people and the international implications for human trafficking.”
Prime Minister Harris said that the federation had to take into consideration realities in relation to changes over time in relation to OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) Treaty and the CARICOM-based Treaty of Chaguaramas, which would have occurred subsequent to the original determination of its immigration laws, by providing “the legal framework by which entry and exit into the federation would take place.”
“We have to be conscious about immigration policies. We want to hold something in the end that still preserves our federation as a friendly and welcoming country, one that is responsible in that it provides a welcoming and supportive environment for people within the CARICOM region, and that consolidates the OECS Treaty and special arrangements that exist within the sub-region,” he said.
The minister of national security said that Member States of the OECS now have to cope with the large influx of immigrants from non-Member States of the OECS and CARICOM such as nationals from the Dominican Republic, a country which is a part of the broader forum of Caribbean States (CARIFORUM).
CARIFORUM refers to the body comprising Caribbean ACP States, which are signatories of the Georgetown Agreement. The agreement was signed in 1975 and it created the African, Caribbean, and the Pacific Group of States (ACP). The grouping is comprised of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific States. The Caribbean Forum of the ACP comprises Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
“We still need to address that reality when our own local constitutions provide for the grandfathering and perhaps great-grandfathering of citizens from other jurisdictions, and when they come, there are other things and other people, family and friends, that come with them and so therefore, how do you fashion an immigration policy that deals with these realities,” Dr. Harris questioned.
He said that his government has signaled its intention to work with the Government of the Dominican Republic to engage in consultations and discussions “because reciprocity has to feature into what we will do.”
He said that while this is a work in progress, the present immigration laws of the country must be maintained and respected, and people must regularize their immigration status.