Foreign Ministry Ironing Out Kinks in CSME

Photo: Contributed Head of the Trade Agreement Implementation Coordination Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Symone Betton-Nayo, speaking with students at a CARICOM Single Market and Economy Sensitisation session held recently in Clarendon. About 500 students from nine high schools in the parish participated in the session, organised by the Ministry.

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has been working with its regional counterparts to resolve some of the problems that frustrate travellers within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
  • Under the CSME, skilled persons are entitled to move and work freely throughout the region once granted a CARICOM Recognition of Skills Qualification.
  • At a press briefing earlier this year, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said there has been an 82 per cent reduction in the number of Jamaicans turned away from the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has been working with its regional counterparts to resolve some of the problems that frustrate travellers within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Under the CSME, skilled persons are entitled to move and work freely throughout the region once granted a CARICOM Recognition of Skills Qualification.

These include university graduates, media practitioners, artistes, sportspersons, managers, technical and supervisory staff attached to a company, domestic workers and self-employed persons.

Work is being spearheaded by the Ministry’s Trade Agreement Implementation Coordination Unit, responsible for directing and monitoring Jamaica’s obligations under the CSME.

Head of the unit, Symone Betton-Nayo, tells JIS News that discussions have been held with officials in Barbados.

In March, Mrs. Betton-Nayo was in the island for a five-day visit to observe CSME-related activities.

This was under a focal point exchange programme organised by the CARICOM Secretariat, aimed at promoting greater understanding of the CSME among member states.

While there, she met with senior government officials as well as officers of the Immigration Department, and the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC), which is responsible for verifying skills certificates.

“That joint meeting was very, very useful because they are both two critical entities to the free movement process,” she notes.

Mrs. Betton-Nayo, who is also the CSME Focal Point for Jamaica, tells JIS News that efforts were made to address some of the challenges faced by Jamaicans to get their skills certificates verified when moving to Barbados.

CARICOM nationals can apply for a skills certificate in the host or home state under the CARICOM Free Movement of Persons Act, 1997.

“I raised the issue of the verification process, the length of time it takes to verify but not only that, the process of verification, which appears to be costly and time consuming,” Mrs. Betton-Nayo points out.

She explains that the skills certificates issued by Jamaica would already have gone through “the rigours of our application system” and they are all signed by the Minister of Labour and Social Security.

“So, you must be able to trust that whatever certificate goes through that system, it is bona fide, it is authentic and on the basis of that (the host country) should be able to now carry out its verification function rather than having to repeat that process through its own verification system,” she points out.

She says the slow verification process was acknowledged by the Barbadian officials, but they also emphasised the importance of carrying out “quality infrastructure functions.”

The CSME Focal Point for Barbados, Paula Byer, had visited Jamaica on a similar mission to hold meetings with public and private sector entities administering the five CSME regimes, namely: the free movement of goods, the free movement of skills, the free movement of capital, the provision of services, and the right of establishment.

There have also been successes in addressing the problem of nationals being denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago.

At a press briefing earlier this year, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said there has been an 82 per cent reduction in the number of Jamaicans turned away from the country.

“This is a great success…it has required work between the Governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It has required work by our mission in Trinidad and it has required work by our team here,” she noted.

Senator Johnson Smith said the Government of Trinidad also kept its commitment to retrofit an area in the Piarco airport to comfortably accommodate persons, who are not landed, while they await return to their country of origin.

In addition, she reported that at least two rounds of training have been conducted for immigration officials at the airport and “we have been working closely with the Government of Trinidad on improving the ability of our business persons to export to Trinidad, by re-establishing a trade desk within the Jamaican High Commission.”

She said that businesspeople are reporting an improvement in attitude as they seek to do business in Trinidad.

The Ministry is also engaging citizens in CSME sensitisation sessions to apprise them of the travel and employment guidelines within CARICOM countries.

This is in order to ensure that persons are fully aware of the rules and requirements so that they can have a positive experience when they travel.

“We want to make a qualitative difference and their understanding of the CSME, how it works, how it functions and how it can benefit them. So, that is a priority focus of the Ministry for this year,” Mrs. Betton-Nayo points out.

Sessions have been held for domestic workers as well as high school students from several schools.

Professional groups that fall in the categories of persons, who can move are to be engaged.

A travel guide with tips for Jamaicans moving within CARICOM was developed and disseminated at airports and travel agencies.

It is also available on the Facebook pages of the Ministry, the Jamaican High Commission in Port of Spain, Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency, Total Travel Agency and Caribbean Airlines.

Persons, who face problems while seeking to enter or while staying in a CARICOM country, can contact Jamaican consul officers, the High Commissions or Honorary Consuls in any of the Caribbean territories to share their concerns.

Persons can also fill out the CARICOM Complaints Form available at the Norman Manley and Sangster International airports and at the CSME website at csmeonline.org.

The document should be submitted to the Ministry’s head office, 21 Dominica Drive, Kingston 5, or email to trade_agmts@mfaft.gov.jm or ta_assistant@mfaft.gov.jm

 

JIS Social