Migration data management can improve Caribbean free movement regimes

26 August, 2020

Georgetown, Guyana, 13 August 2020 - More research and data collection into migration patterns with the Eastern Caribbean will go a long way in crafting national migration policies and to maximize governments’ capacity to manage migration in the region. This was highlighted by several migration experts from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at an online forum under the theme Celebrating 10 Years of Freedom of Movement.

In his opening remarks, IOM Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean, Robert Natiello, shared that migration management affects all sectors of national governance and development. “Migration generally is a cross-cutting issue that touches almost all levels and reaches of government, which is why IOM sees that migration must be managed using a whole-of-government approach and that the benefits of migration are maximized when it is well-planned and conducted in a safe, regular, orderly and responsible manner,” said Natiello.

Meanwhile, Director-General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules stressed that data collection and research will play an important role in migration monitoring, particularly in the post-COVID 19 world. This kind of information, he noted, will be an essential component for the OECS as it engages more with its diaspora.

Moreover, information on migration patterns within the region helps to improve the implementation of the free movement policies and cooperation between island states. According to IOM Research Officer, Estela Aragón, this was evident in previous studies which revealed that the OECS is generally regarded as successful among Member States since the implementation of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre in 2010. Aragón explained that due to such implementation the OECS was able to coordinate relief and relocation efforts spurring from natural disasters, as was the case with Hurricane Maria in Dominica in 2017.

However, the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region presents several barriers for free movement regimes, like the OECS. “After COVID-19, free movement is going to look different,” said the migration specialist, while emphasizing that this increases the need for enhanced data collection and management of migration in the region.

Furthermore, while free movement brings with a lot of economic and human benefits, IOM Senior Regional Specialist on Labour Migration and Human Development, Michela Macchiavello, highlighted that destination countries will face several challenges if it is not implemented properly. “Migrants tend to often cluster in specific sectors of production in the economy of the country of destination, especially when they are semi or un-skilled. This inevitably creates a displacement of the local labour force,” said Macchiavello, while noting that this can cause tensions between communities. To address this and other social challenges, Macchiavello explained that migration policies must also consider how the local populations can be affected. Governments can use that information along with the technical support provided by the IOM to address short to long term solutions for such issues.

According to OECS Senior Technical Officer for Regional Integration, Dr. Clarence Henry the free movement regime is working towards reforming legislation that would allow for better integration into the labour market. He explained that reform would aim to ensure that citizens are able to securely move between countries without significant barriers while also ensuring that basic social benefits are guaranteed between countries. Dr. Henry expressed that data collection and more research would strengthen migration policies throughout the region.

Another key component in migration management is the need to increase the capacity for governments and migration agencies to share information with other stakeholders. According to Strategic Advisor on Gender and Migration at the OECS Commission, Dr. Natasha K. Mortley, data needs to be accessible to multiple national stakeholders for any free movement regime to be successful. Institutional capacity, explained Dr. Mortley, must be developed in areas of technological and human resources so that governments and stakeholders can shape policies that address migration management from a holistic and informed approach. This would also include gathering disaggregated data, such as sex, age and occupation, that will provide deeper insight on how to maximize migration benefits.

IOM’s participation was supported by the Regional Program on Migration – Mesoamerica & the Caribbean and funded by the US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. A full recording of the webinar can be found here.