ILO Urges Region to Embrace Free Movement

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday May 22, 2019 – The head of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is urging Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to embrace immigration and quickly rid themselves of a “toxic” anti-immigration stance.

ILO
Director-General Guy Ryder told the Barbados Today online newspaper that although
the time is ripe for ramped-up free movement of workers, the notion is surprisingly
unpopular.

He pointed
out that given Barbadian concerns that workforce levels are unsustainable given
an aging population, immigration was one of the fixes that should be seriously
considered.

But Ryder
suggested this negative attitude to immigration was by no means limited to the
Caribbean but had now become a global reality.

“Here is one
of the paradoxes of our time and we are seeing it across the board. At a time
when the economic case for more liberal migration has never been stronger
because we will all benefit economically from more liberal and permissive
migration, the political and social obstacles to migration seem to be growing,”
he said.

Ryder
explained that several regional leaders, including Prime Minister Mia Mottley
have highlighted this as a concern, which is hindering the obvious solution to
underpopulation and aging population facing several Caribbean countries.

“This is
becoming a toxic issue and people are becoming very defensive. In my view, I
think we have to reconsider how we react to this unhelpful toxicity throughout
the migration mobility process,” he said.

“I met with
the Prime Minister of Barbados yesterday who noted that in the Caribbean we are
totally underpopulated but yet we are seeing this type of resistance and nervousness
to increased migration.”

Last August,
the longstanding visa requirement for Haitians coming to Barbados was lifted.

But the early
stages of the visa-free entry from CARICOM’s poorest member state did not go
smoothly, as many Haitians made the journey to Barbados in search of work. Some
ended being stranded in the country after promises of jobs failed to materialize.
Critics blamed the lifting of the visa requirement for the problem.

Earlier this
year, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, who holds the immigration
portfolio, unveiled Government’s plans to enhance the labour force by
addressing the island’s immediate need for skilled people through a policy of “managed
migration”.

He said that
the island, however, would not be open to “those who are going to be a drain on
our economy or public purse”, but would be welcoming “those who are productive,
who have skills. We need more young people in this country in their most
productive age”.

Ryder strongly
supported Government’s stance on immigration but noted that in order for it to
be effective, there needed to be buy-in across the board.

He said: “The fact of the matter is that where skills shortages exist at a certain location, one way of compensating is simply to facilitate labour mobility. This could be restricted to the CARICOM region or it could be extended globally. However, we need to get over this reticence thinking towards migration.” (Barbados Today)

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