Saint Lucia
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St. Lucia Commits to CARICOM Free Movement by 2024

Citizens of Saint Lucia and of other CARICOM Member States would be looking closely to the date of 31 March 2024 as a possible milestone for the Region.  The Conference of Heads of Government, meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad over the period July 3-5, 2023, agreed to work towards the free movement of all CARICOM nationals within the Community by that date.  

This decision brings to the fore one of the aspects of integration for which many CARICOM citizens have been clamouring.  Free movement of all nationals would mean that service providers, persons establishing businesses and wage earners along the full spectrum of employment could enjoy the right to move and work throughout the Community, barring the application of exceptions or safeguards permitted within the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas.

Up to this time, CARICOM Member States have approached the free movement of skilled citizens within the Community on an incremental basis.  They have selected categories of persons entitled to free movement, based first on the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and then adding categories as they negotiated. As a result, university graduates, media workers, sportspersons, artistes and musicians were the first to be permitted to move, followed by nurses, teachers, artisans with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification, holders of Associate Degrees or comparable qualification and domestic helpers.

Along with the enlargement of classes of persons entitled to move and work freely in the Community, Member States also ensured social security benefits could be transferred, and that approved skilled CARICOM nationals were no longer required to obtain work permits. 

It is difficult to judge the extent of movement by CARICOM nationals under the movement of skilled nationals regime since it was first established and legislated in the late 1990s to early 2000s in the various Member States, given that arrangements do not provide for adequate monitoring of movement.  There is, however, the view that the educated and skilled nationals of many CARICOM countries prefer to seek their fortunes in the developed economies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Europe.  

This most recent decision by the Heads of Government, if implemented, could perhaps give a much needed shot in the arm to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.