The Bahamas remains firmly against agreeing to the free movement of people in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis stressed at a town meeting in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, on Saturday.
Minnis said that anyone seeking to work in The Bahamas can apply for a work permit.
“Now, I just came from a CARICOM meeting; it was a CARICOM meeting in St. Kitts,” Minnis said.
“And we normally discuss quite a number of national and regional issues that would be important to us as a group.
“Sometimes it’s always best to work together; you get better results when you work together, and there were two important matters on the agenda.
“One matter that was on the agenda was very important to us and they were speaking and debating the issue of free movement of people.
“Free movement of people means that anyone can come into our country and commence working; professionals [and] non-professionals.
“… I sat in those meetings and I said, ‘The Bahamas has a population of 350,000 to 400,000 people. There are some CARICOM nations that have in excess of 11 million people [and] there are others that have an excess of 2 million.’
“I told them on your behalf, that The Bahamas will not support free movement of people.
“They can move through any other Caribbean country, but not The Bahamas.
“If they want to come here, they will come through our ports, the legal way, and they will obtain work permits if we find we need them; if we don’t, then bye-bye.”
The free movement of people is a part of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) initiative, which aims to create a single economic space to produce goods and services that can compete in the global market. The result would allow the free movement of goods and services, people and capital and technology.
The CSME is high on CARICOM’s agenda, but The Bahamas has been refusing to get on board for some time.
Last July, Minnis uttered a similar sentiment in regard to joining CSME saying, “In spite of what you may read in the newspaper, we have discussed CSME, [but] The Bahamas is not and will not be a part of CSME.
“The Bahamas will not allow the free movement of people within our boundaries. So we are not a part of CSME. That must be clear, so that you do not feel that [because of] what has transpired there that Caribbean nationals would be able to move into The Bahamas quite regularly.
“We have our rules, our laws, and they will continue to apply.”
Minnis said if he were to support such an initiative, he would not be able to return to The Bahamas.
Countries that are a part of the CSME include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.