June 27, 2014
Free movement for CARICOM nationals

Fri Jun 27, 2014

by Deshon J Griffith, Faculty of Law, UWI Cave Hill

In the case of Shanique Myrie v State of Barbados [2013] CCJ 3 (OJ), the Caribbean Court of Justice declared the law on an important aspect of Caribbean Integration Law. It made clear the existence and scope of the right of free movement within the CARICOM regime.{{more}}

The case involves a Jamaica national, Shanique Myrie, who was denied entry into Barbados by border officials at the Grantley Adams International Airport. She claimed that she was subjected to a painful and humiliating body cavity search and other ill-treatment, detained overnight in an insanitary cell and subsequently deported. Myrie claimed that the treatment to which she was subjected amounted to a violation of her right to free movement within the Caribbean Community by the State of Barbados.

The Court found that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a 2007 Decision of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM gave a valid and binding right of free movement to CARICOM nationals. This right, the Court said, includes an entitlement to ‘an automatic stay’ or ‘a definite entry’ of six months upon arrival.

However, there are exceptions to this right, as the CCJ declared. The Court indicated that Member States have a right to refuse entry to “undesirable persons” and also persons who could become “a charge on public funds.” The Court went on to state that the denial of entry is an exception to the rule of free movement and so, where a Member State exercises its right to refuse entry, “it would be reasonable, given also the sense of belonging that the 2007 Conference Decision seeks to instil in these nationals, to allow refused visitors the opportunity to consult an attorney or a consular official of their country, if available, or in any event to contact a family member.”

The decision of the CCJ was that Myrie’s right to free movement was violated. The right was breached by the denial of entry, the treatment to which she was subjected, the conditions under which she was detained and her unjustified deportation. In the end, the State of Barbados was ordered to pay to Myrie damages amounting to BD$75,000.