Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana Lead Robust Migration Within the Caribbean, New IOM Study Finds

Throughout the world, ‘international’ migration mostly involves people travelling across borders within their region to access better employment, education opportunities, the chance to start a business or reunite with family members.

In other words, most cross-border migration is regional, and that’s true even in regions whose countries don’t always share land borders.

A study recently completed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that although levels of extra-regional migration in the Caribbean remain high, citizens are increasingly moving within their region. They’re using the opportunities created by the passage of two free-movement agreements in effect within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Free Movement of Persons in Caribbean: Economic and Security Dimensions is believed to be the first study of its kind in the Caribbean, examining the economic and security impacts of regimes allowing Caribbean nationals to move freely under the terms of two treaties, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Revised Treaty of Basseterre adopted, respectively, in 2001 and 2010.

The report is based on a review of the existing documentation and administrative records related to free movement, which was complemented through in-depth interviews conducted in six Caribbean countries over the course of eight months in 2019.

“This study sheds light on how people are moving throughout the Caribbean and provides data-driven findings and recommendations to support regional cooperation on migration,” said Briana Mawby, Lead Researcher in IOM’s Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

The IOM study found that during a single year, 2017, over two million people relocated between countries of the region under the agreement. Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana were the two countries sending the greatest number of intraregional migrants. Simultaneously, Trinidad and Tobago also figured among the top two receivers (with Barbados) of CARICOM nationals.

Under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy regime, individuals may apply for a skills certificate to allow them indefinite stays in another CARICOM country. In 2017, 71 per cent of skills certificates issued were for university graduates, followed by holders of associate degrees with almost 11 per cent.

This innovative 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 portability of things like social security benefits.

“A clear understanding of how free movement provisions are implemented is critical for guiding economic and security policy,” added Estela Aragón, Research Officer in the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. “By providing reliable information and filling data gaps, IOM seeks to support the development of evidence-based policies and practices to facilitate the movement of persons.”

Nonetheless, challenges to fully harness the benefits of this orderly migration still exist. This is one of the main findings of a study.

There are concerns, for example, about governments’ limited ability to track and vet individuals moving throughout the region. The report also highlights the critical need to improve data collection and to develop indicators to better understand the economic impacts of free movement of persons in the Caribbean.

“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,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. “IOM seeks to support regional integration and collaboration in the region to ensure safe, regular and orderly migration.”

This research was conducted within the framework of IOM’s Regional Program on Migration Mesoamerica – The Caribbean, financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State of the United States of America.

Download the complete study here: