IOM Publishes New Report on Free Movement of Persons in the Caribbean

7 February, 2020

On January 28, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released the results of a study on free movement of persons in the Caribbean. Completed in response to needs expressed by Caribbean States, the study analyzes the free movement agreements within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and seeks to support ongoing regional integration efforts across the Caribbean.  

This is the first study of its kind in the Caribbean, examining the economic and security impacts of two regional agreements related to migration through in-depth interviews conducted in six Caribbean countries. The study provides an unparalleled analysis of migration trends within the region through the free movement regimes.   

The report addresses key issues, showing that the number of intraregional migrants and people utilizing Skills Certificates is increasing and that, despite uneven implementation, both regimes have made progress to ensure access to and portability of social security benefits. There are, however, concerns about the limited ability to track and vet individuals moving throughout the region, and the report highlights the critical need to improve data collection and development of indicators to better understand the economic impacts of free movement of persons in the Caribbean.   

Free movement of persons is a key and interwoven component in Caribbean development strategies, and the CARICOM and OECS free movement regimes fundamentally shape how people move throughout the region. “The CARICOM and OECS free movement regimes expand the avenues that allow people to move, facilitating greater opportunity to travel, seek employment, access social services, and establish businesses. IOM seeks to support regional integration and collaboration in the region to ensure safe, regular and orderly migration,” highlighted Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.  

From the date of inception of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, which administers the free movement of person regime, through 2017, the movement of 2,040,750 people has been facilitated in the region. In 2017, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana were the countries sending the greatest number of intraregional migrants within CARICOM, and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago received the most CARICOM nationals.  

Within CARICOM, individuals may apply for a Skills Certificate to allow them indefinite stay in another CARICOM country. In 2017, 71 percent of Skills Certificates issued were for University Graduates, followed by Holders of Associate Degrees with almost 11 percent. However, in many countries, the use of work permits far outweighs the use of Skills Certificates.  

Movement within the OECS Eastern Caribbean Economic Union (ECEU) happens differently, as all OECS nationals may move freely among any OECS Protocol Member States and are granted an indefinite period of stay. There are no specific data about OECS mobility trends, but CARICOM statistics indicate that of the small islands states in the Eastern Caribbean, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had the greatest number of citizens that traveled to other CARICOM countries, and Antigua and Barbuda received the greatest number of CARICOM citizens, receiving more than twice as many individuals as they send.  

Overall, countries with the largest Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) tend to be the largest intraregional destination countries, but the smallest economies are not necessarily the States with the highest rates of emigration. 

Fifty government officials from six Member States participated in this study, which was conducted over the course of eight months in 2019. This research was conducted within the framework of IOM Western Hemisphere Migration Program, financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State of the United States of America.  

Download the complete study [English] here: