|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 92 - Wednesday February 7, 2007
|Caribbean Gaffe over New Visa Rule |
On February 1, 2007, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Domestic Space policy was declared official. This announcement has rekindled the controversial issues surrounding the CARICOM special visa required for travel within the member nations.
The CARICOM and its Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), created a special visa for the period of February 1, 2007 through May 15, 2007, initially as a convenience for visitors and cricket fans traveling throughout the region. This special visa is also intended to facilitate security in the region during the World Cup of Cricket West Indies 2007 which takes place March 13 to April 28, 2007.
The visa, which costs US$100, will only be valid from January 15, 2007 to May, 15, 2007. The common CARICOM visa was supposed to be applicable to 46 countries. Now it is applicable to all nations except for citizens of Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, United States, United Kingdom, and all of the dependent territories of these countries.
In a recent move, it was agreed to waive visa fees for children under 12 years old.
Currently, travelers from countries that have not previously required a visa will now have to apply for the CARICOM visa for travel during the designated period. Avid cricket countries Australia and New Zealand will need to apply. Ironically, these two countries are participating in the upcoming World Cup.
Australia and New Zealand are joined by Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria in the list of countries now needing a visa, along with Pakistan and India.
The United Kingdom and South Africa, also participating in the World Cup, are exempt from the visa. Interestingly, both these countries require a visa from several of the Caribbean nations upon entry to their countries.
Critics of this special visa say it does not serve as an effective tool in screening potential terrorists. The special visa does not require a location or proof of where the visitor will be staying or of a return ticket and is not as effective as the current system used by most CARICOM nations.
Opinions are divided regarding how the implementation of this visa will affect bookings during this period. There has been strong criticism from both Jamaican Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) president Horace Peterkin, and Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) president Edmund Bartlett regarding the possible negative effects to tourism economy.
However, Jamaican Tourism Minister Aloun Assamba says that the bookings have not been affected as a result of the visa during a press conference at the offices of the Jamaica Tourist Board. Caribbean Tourism president Allen Chastenet last week said the numbers of visitors projected for the event may not materialize. He indicated a couple of factors might contribute to the fallout, such as the new US passport requirements and the CARICOM visa.
World Cup tournament manager Stephen Price told IDI that the commercial arm of the International Cricket Council, ticket sales the World Cup of Cricket have exceeded the previous event in South Africa.
In an interesting development, both the United States and Australia on January 31 have issued travel advisories for the region. Australian cricket fans have been urged to show avoid in crime prone areas. In the report from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs citizens are warned violent crime, such as armed robbery kidnapping and murder is common.
Meanwhile, a strong US warning was issued for citizens to be aware of the potential danger with the World Cup in the area because it could be the focus of terrorist acts and other forms violence.
The Police Federation in Jamaica on February 1 demanded extra pay for their members during the World Cup. The National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips has indicated it will not authorize extra pay for the event. General Secretary for the Police Federation corporal Hartley Stewart said it will be discussed in the upcoming monthly meeting. Several officers have warned they may not perform their duties without the extra pay. This has caused some repercussions with policemen and policewomen in other territories that are not getting extra pay for the World Cup event.
Amid all the speculation and controversy, travelers to the region will need to be aware of the new CARICOM visa regulations and use caution while enjoying these beautiful islands in the Caribbean.