120,055 Caricom nationals allowed in T&T in 2018

A to­tal of 120,055 Cari­com na­tion­als were al­lowed en­try to T&T in 2018—but bar­bers beau­ti­cians, se­cu­ri­ty guards and agri­cul­tur­al work­ers whom re­gion­al lead­ers re­cent­ly pro­posed for re­gion­al free move­ment, can’t get this yet since it isn’t fi­nalised.

The facts were giv­en yes­ter­day by act­ing per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs Ri­ta Tou­s­saint when she and min­istry of­fi­cials ap­peared be­fore Par­lia­ment’s For­eign Af­fairs over­sight com­mit­tee. The team scru­ti­nised progress on Cari­com’s Sin­gle Mar­ket and Econ­o­my (CSME) for the first time.

But the team, which sought to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion on how T&T’s ben­e­fit­ed from CSME im­ple­men­ta­tion and progress on the free move­ment of labour, ser­vices and goods, had to re­peat­ed­ly seek in­for­ma­tion from min­istry of­fi­cials who didn’t have facts at hand—and team mem­bers didn’t hide their feel­ings about the fail­ure.

Com­mit­tee chair­man Mar­lene Mc­Don­ald told Tou­s­saint at one point: “We want to find out what progress we’re mak­ing with CSME—whether go­ing for­ward, sta­t­ic or go­ing back­wards! If we don’t know if we’re pro­gress­ing, we wast­ing time! We need in­for­ma­tion to in­form us about the poli­cies and laws we may need ahead!”

Tou­s­saint said the free move­ment thrust has ex­pand­ed the labour pool and fos­tered greater com­pe­ti­tion among the labour force. She said CSME’s right of es­tab­lish­ment as­pect al­so al­lowed big­ger space for in­creased in­vest­ment and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

She was un­able to say how suc­cess­ful T&T na­tion­als’ bid to get Cari­com jobs has been but, “There’s been a large num­ber of na­tion­als com­ing to the Min­istry seek­ing Cari­com Skills Cer­tifi­cates, so there’s a mea­sure of suc­cess for na­tion­als and for Cari­com res­i­dents al­so.”

Tou­s­saint in­di­cat­ed that 4,000 Cari­com na­tion­als ap­plied for Skills Cer­tifi­cates is­sued by T&T since 2006 when CSME was im­ple­ment­ed.

But she said T&T hasn’t yet passed leg­is­la­tion to al­low the sec­ond cat­e­go­ry of work­ers in Cari­com’s free move­ment pol­i­cy - nurs­es, teach­ers, ar­ti­sans etc - and such peo­ple are cur­rent­ly op­er­at­ing on arrange­ment on­ly. Dead­line for leg­is­la­tion has been ex­tend­ed to Ju­ly.

The lat­est cat­e­go­ry of work­ers—ar­bers, beau­ti­cians, etc—whom Cari­com lead­ers pro­posed last De­cem­ber, for free move­ment ac­cess, can­not get this yet since a de­ci­sion must be tak­en on re­quire­ments for such peo­ple. T&T and oth­er states must al­so pass leg­is­la­tion to al­low these work­ers, she added.

Tou­s­saint said she didn’t know of com­plaints about peo­ple be­ing de­nied en­try. She said there’ve been two re­ports of this —one in Jan­u­ary and an­oth­er at the end of 2018— and al­so didn’t have re­ports of com­plaints of peo­ple not get­ting jobs.

For­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer Saschele Grif­fith said com­plaint forms are avail­able at air­ports for those de­nied. Tou­s­saint didn’t have fig­ures on skill cer­tifi­cate ap­pli­ca­tions. She al­so said there’s no mech­a­nism to cap­ture in­for­ma­tion on those who reached out to the Min­istry - fol­low­ing a CSME in­for­ma­tion thrust- to ap­ply or to pur­sue skills cer­tifi­cates.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Sham­fa Cud­joe, say­ing she was trou­bled by lack of num­bers for ap­pli­cants and oth­er in­for­ma­tion, said, “Who’s keep­ing track on (CSME)? Is this re­al­ly on or it is fan­cy talk from our lead­ers ...we need to be in a po­si­tion to say what’s hap­pen­ing. If the Min­istry doesn’t have the in­for­ma­tion, who does?”
Mc­Don­ald said she’d ex­pect­ed a lit­tle more on some is­sues and while Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty and Im­mi­gra­tion could have giv­en some in­for­ma­tion, “.....For­eign Af­fairs is the over­ar­ch­ing pol­i­cy min­istry on (CSME),”

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Maria Dil­lon- Re­my said the min­istry should have mech­a­nisms on that de­nied en­try and not re­ly on peo­ple fil­ing com­plaints on­ly. Com­mit­tee mem­ber Paula Gopee-Scoon added the min­istry was ex­pect­ed to be the keep­er of the en­tire CSME agen­da. Tou­s­saint as­sured there was “en­thu­si­asm” in the min­istry for the process.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

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