Trinidad, Jamaica Hold Talks Following Immigration Row

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Above: Jamaican Foreign Minister Sen AJ Nicholson

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran and Jamaica Foreign Minister Senator AJ Nicholson held talks in Kingston Tuesday to discuss an immigration dispute between the two countries.

The row was the result of a denial of entry to several Jamaican nationals who were seeking to enter Trinidad late last month. It has led to increased tensions between the two sides, including threats of a boycott of goods from Trinidad and Tobago.

Nicholson said that the decision to deny entry had led to “considerable public outrage,” particularly following the landmark Shanique Myrie case in the Caribbean Court of Justice that addressed a similar issue.

Dookeran said that, despite the reports, around 96 percent of Jamaicans who had sought entry to Trinidad in the last three years had been granted entry without incident, a total of 56,324 Jamaican nationals.

But he said that the talks underscored the urgency of a meeting by CARICOM to “elaborate on ways to sensitize their officials on the fair treatment of CARICOM nationals exercising their rights within the community,” he said.

While free movement of skills is a fundamental concept of the Caribbean community and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the concept has not been applied universally.

According to Article II in the Revised Treaty, Freedom of movement is “subject to such exceptions and qualifications as may be authoried by national law and which are reasonably justifiable in a free and democratic society.”

That has generally led to an abridged concept and not infrequent disputes on the matter between member states.

Dookeran said he had invited Nicholson to visit Port of Spain by the end of the first quarter of next year for “further consultations.”

“Overall, I feel confident that over these last two days, we have gone some distance in easing the tensions which have been generated by one single issue and which had the potential to frustrate our good bilateral relations, which themselves could have led to difficulties on a much broader front,” Dookeran said.