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Belize’s Opposition has denounced what it says is the Briceno Administration’s violation of the CARICOM free movement rights of Jamaicans and Haitians guaranteed under the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
This follows an announcement made in late March in which Cabinet determined that Belize would invoke Article 226 (a) of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which will allow for the Minister of Immigration to immediately impose a visa requirement for Haitians wishing to visit Belize and to require Jamaicans to provide evidence of fully paid non-refundable hotel reservations prior to boarding flights to Belize.
In a statement, that country’s Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow said these rights have been tested and affirmed all the way to the CCJ in 2013 when the CCJ ruled that Shanique Myrie, as a CARICOM national, had a right of entry to any CARICOM nation under a 2007 decision by the conference of heads of government on the free movement of citizens within the community, without harassment or undue impediments.
Belize imposes stricter travel rules for Jamaicans
The Opposition said the Briceno Administration must not lead Belize down a path of whimsical decision-making that will undermine the institution of CARICOM, the objective of regional integration and our ultimate aspirations for a single market economy.
“Visa requirements for Haitians is discriminatory and violates their rights to hassle-free movement guaranteed by our CARICOM agreements and affirmed by the CCJ.
Requiring anything more, such as non-refundable accommodation that places undue economic burdens, from Jamaican nationals travelling to Belize than you would another CARICOM national was explicitly frowned upon by the CCJ,” said the Opposition leader.
The opposition said the Briceno Administration must ensure Belize is a committed member of CARICOM and find solutions derived from meaningful deliberations with all the Heads of States that are in keeping with the framework of regional integration and the single market economy.
It ended by stating: “Lest we find ourselves increasingly isolated and a threat to the CARICOM community successive Governments of Belize have helped to build.”
Prime Minister John Briceno in response to the Opposition’s criticism during a recent interview with local media said he believes the Opposition leader is suffering from attention deficit disorder and just wants attention.
The prime minister said Barrow knows what is happening, “we did not take this lightly.”
“Utterly it is his father, the prime minister then, that required Haitians to get a visa coming to Belize, contrary to the Treaty of Chaguaramas. I do not remember or recall the Opposition of the leader back then calling out the UDP saying that you’re moving contrary to the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
It is our Government that said you know we need to implement the Treaty of Chaguaramas and to remove the visa waiver.”
Meanwhile, in relation to Jamaicans, the prime minister said Belize is seeing the same trend but it is not as pronounced as with the Haitians.
“So what we again have said that it is something we are considering, we have not done it as yet. But what we agreed to, the Minister of Immigration has said that he will be speaking with the Ministry of Tourism in Belize and also with his counterpart for the Foreign Minister of Jamaica and the Minister of Immigration to see how best we can address this.
“We welcome Jamaicans to come to Belize and as I said earlier, Jamaica has been a close ally of Belize from the start of our nationalist movement. We’ve had this history together. We work together… and Prime Minister Holness and myself, we are personal friends… From time to time we call one another and so it is not something we are just going to do just on a whim.
“It is something we are trying to find how best to address that issue of Jamaicans that come to Belize for them to be able to go to the United States.
So that decision has not been made… it is a decision we are looking at, we are discussing it with the Ministry of Tourism, Foreign Minister, Minister of Immigration… he has been in contact with his counterparts in Jamaica.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Belize, Eamon Courtenay, tweeted on Thursday:
There are no restrictions on Jamaicans wishing to visit Belize. Unu welcome so pull up! https://t.co/Baau8sXLbc
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