At least two members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have re-introduced visa requirements for Haitian nationals.
According to reports from various Caribbean News Sites, the Barbadian and Dominican Governments have re-introduced visa requirements for Haitian nationals entering their country. While the restriction applies to holders of ordinary passports they do not apply to those Haitian nationals who are holders of a diplomatic or official passport, who are business persons or those who are holders US, UK, Canadian or Schengen visas.
Barbados which allowed visa free movement of Haitian nationals last year was the first to announce a reversal of the measure.
The country’s ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong is quoted as lamenting in July the impact of the measure which reportedly saw scores of Haitians stranded on the island after being taken advantage of by human traffickers.
“No one in Haiti had really explained to them the principles of this free movement programme, and the vast majority of them were coming with this mistaken idea that they could simply come to Barbados to work and live, with many of them becoming stranded in Barbados,” he said adding that the island “derived no pleasure from having to move away from the full visa free regime, but we felt that we didn’t have a choice, and we communicated that to the Haitian Government, and they understand that Barbados’ heart is with them, but we were compelled to make the change.”
Comissiong explained that when Barbados removed the visa requirements, almost simultaneously, through the Barbados Tourism Authority, Panama’s COPA airlines started two flights a week out of Panama.
“Those flights out of Panama then became available to Haitians — Haitians coming from Haiti itself, and also Haitians coming from Chile, where there is a large Haitian Diaspora and those two weekly flights into Barbados came to be dominated by Haitian travellers,” he added stressing that the situation was becoming untenable, and a decision was made after extensive consultations with several stakeholders, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Immigration Department, the ministries of Tourism, and Home Affairs, airlines and the Grantley Adams Inter-national Airport.
He noted that the large number of stranded Haitians were beginning to receive a negative backlash from Barbadians and he noted that the large number of stranded Haitians were beginning to receive a negative backlash from Barbadians and that was the last thing the government wanted.
“We did not want an initiative which was supposed to be a positive and constructive regional integration initiative descending into instability and chaos, and then generating a negative response from the Barbadian people,” he added.