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PM threatens to pull SVG from CSME

PM threatens to  pull SVG from CSME

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Comments made by Barbados’ Foreign Minister on the immigration issue will be ignored by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Senator Maxine Mc Clean called out Dr Gonsalves on his suggestion that Vincentians and other CARICOM nationals are ill treated by immigration personnel at one or two regional airports.{{more}}

“I have made my statement in parliament. It is not my practice to respond to foreign ministers, so I will not respond to the Foreign Minister,” Dr Gonsalves said at a press conference on Monday, May 18th.

In the Thursday, May 14th sitting of parliament, Dr Gonsalves threatened to pull St. Vincent and the Grenadines out of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) over discrimination he says Vincentians are facing.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves was delivering a ministerial statement and said that while his government remains “deeply committed to CARICOM, “we are left to wonder whether it would be better for us to refrain from participating in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and focus on membership in CARICOM in terms of functional cooperation in education, health, climate change, the judiciary and like, cooperation on security matters, and a continued co-ordination of foreign policy where practicable.”

The Prime Minister related a story about a teenage boy and a five-year-old girl who were deported from another Caribbean territory, believed to be Barbados.

According to the sometimes controversial Gonsalves, the way in which the deportation was done has troubled him, and a relative of the children, a Vincentian married to a national of the unnamed country, wrote him on the matter.

But Barbadian Foreign Minister Senator Maxine Mc Clean has accused Gonsalves of wrongfully making her country into a villain.

“We try to be good citizens as far as CARICOM is concerned and nobody can say otherwise,” she told the Nation last Monday, May 18th.

“Barbados is facing a serious illegal immigration problem”, she stated.

During his address to parliament, Dr Gonsalves didn’t name names but it is widely accepted, and he did not refute the perception that Barbados is counted in the “one or two member-countries where immigration authorities are dismissive of their countries’ Treaty commitments.”

He had accused some political leaders of stoking latent chauvinistic fires saying, “This has led…to an outpouring of a malignant xenophobia particularly against Guyanese, Jamaicans, Vincentians, St Lucians and Grenadians.”

Gonsalves further complained that while the treatment meted out to Vincentians is far from acceptable, the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF)which St Vincent and the Grenadines stands to benefit tremendously from has remained illusory.

“The CDF must become fully operational. The administrative dragon’s dance on the CDF must come to an end; and it must be open for business soonest.”

He suggested that concentration on the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and a deeper union with Trinidad and Tobago may be what’s best for this country.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker will represent the Prime Minister at the 49th meeting of the OECS Heads of Government, scheduled from May 20th to 22nd in the British Virgin Islands.

Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson is scheduled to hold talks with the leaders on a range of issues including the immigration concerns.

Earlier this month Thompson had announced a tough stance against illegal immigrants living in Barbados.

“With effect from 1st June 2009, all undocumented CARICOM nationals who entered Barbados prior to the 31st December, 2005 and remained undocumented for a period of eight years or more, are required to come forward and have their status regularised,” he said in the Barbadian parliament.

Furthermore, an application for immigrant status together with all supporting documentation must be submitted to the Barbados Immigration Department before December 1, 2009.

Each case will be considered on its individual merit, said the Barbadian Prime Minister, adding: “I must make it clear that after the qualifying period has expired, those CARICOM nationals without lawful permission to remain in the island will be removed”.(KJ)