Shanique Myrie v. The State of Barbados: CARICOM Nationals’ Right of Entry Into Community States

In Shanique Myrie v. The State of Barbados [2013] CCJ 3, the Caribbean Court of Justice (“the Court”) sitting in its original jurisdiction was faced with an issue of major importance, that is, whether and to what extent CARICOM nationals have a right of free movement within the Caribbean Community.

The Claimant, Shanique Myrie who is a Jamaican national, arrived in Barbados on March 14 2011, was denied entry and the following day was deported to Jamaica. She brought an action against the State of Barbados in 2012 and asked the Court to make several Declarations and Orders including an order to pay special and punitive damages. The State of Jamaica joined the Claimant and was granted the status of Intervener by the Court.

The law applicable to this case is the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (“the RTC”) and the Decision of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community taken at their Twenty-Eighth Meeting (“the 2007 Conference Decision”).

Article 45 of the RTC states: Member States commit themselves to the goal of free movement of their nationals within the Community.

The 2007 Conference Decision reads:


AGREED that all CARICOM nationals should be entitled to an automatic stay of six months upon arrival in order to enhance their sense that they belong to, and can move in the Caribbean Community, subject to the rights of Member States to refuse undesirable persons entry and to prevent persons from becoming a charge on public funds.”

After hearing submissions from Barbados and the Community, the Court held that the use of the word “agreed” and not “decided” is inconsequential and accordingly, the 2007 Conference Decision is effective.

The Court was then met with the question, whether article 240 of the RTC requires the 2007 Conference Decision to be enacted at the domestic level before it becomes binding on that particular Member State. Article 240 (1) and (2) states:- 1. Decisions of competent Organs taken under this Treaty shall be subject to the relevant constitutional procedures of the Member States before creating legally binding rights and obligations for nationals of such States. 2. The Member States undertake to act expeditiously to give effect to decisions of competent Organs and Bodies in their municipal law.

Under the Barbados Immigration Act (Section 3), there is a basic presumption that persons who are not citizens or permanent residents of Barbados have no legal right of entry into the country. However, the Court stated that as a result of the RTC and the 2007 Conference Decision, CARICOM nationals do have a right to enter Barbados and all other Member States. The Court further stated that it is the duty of every Member State to ensure that its domestic law reflects and endorses Community law.

However, it should be noted that there are two exceptions to the right of entry, namely, that the Community national is an undesirable person, and, it is evident that the Community national will become a charge on public funds. The Court noted that since these grounds of refusal of entry are exceptions to a fundamental principle of free movement, the premises on which the refusal is based must be interpreted narrowly and strictly. Further, the burden of proof lies on the Member State that seeks to invoke either ground for denying entry.

As it relates to undesirability, the Court held that no restrictions in the interests of public morals, national security and safety, and national health should be placed on the right of free entry of a CARICOM national unless that person presents a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society.

In the event that a Member State denies entry to a CARICOM national, that State is required to give to the person reasons for the denial of entry promptly and in writing. The Court expressed the view that it would be reasonable to permit persons who have been refused entry the opportunity to contact an attorney or consular official of their country or a family member.

In light of the CCJ’s judgment in Shanique Myrie v The State of Barbados which highlighted relevant articles in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the 2007 Conference Decision, Community nationals have a right of entry into the territories of Member States and are entitled to an automatic stay of six months upon arrival. This definite right of entry may only be derogated from where the person is an undesirable or it is evident that the person will become a charge on public funds. The grounds for refusing entry to a CARICOM national must be narrowly and strictly interpreted.

                                                                                                                                         – Kara-Je Kellman


What were Barrow & Williams Thinking?

errol barrow and eric williamsBarbadians are warming to the idea that they should participate continually in decision making in their country when traditionally they have felt that their duty was to vote every five years and then go about their own business.

H.E. Errol W. Barrow & Dr. Eric E. Williams

There are many extra-constitutional means of doing this such as communicating with your Member of Parliament staging demonstrations, taking strike action, engaging in letter writing campaigns and sit-ins. Demonstrations and strike action are perhaps the tools most often used in Barbados.

Governments and some Ministers do take the engagement of the public seriously and would invite them to consult before developing and implementing any major policy initiative. This of course depends very much upon the temperament of the Minister, there being no legal requirement to consult.

Call for greater participation

Barbadians have made lukewarm calls for referenda on issues such as decoupling of Barbados from the United Kingdom. They have also suggested that they should be able to re-call parliamentarians.

Those who know how easy it is to manipulate political outcomes by those who have the greatest access to money have been skeptical. There is no doubt that an individual who had managed to win a seat could be unseated through recall by those within his or her own party or the opposition party through bribing the electors.

No provisions for referenda

All CARICOM countries currently have provisions for referenda in their Independence Constitutions except for Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. Belize passed a Referendum Act in 1999.

Referenda experience

On June 23rd 2016 Barbadians saw a referendum play out before them in the United Kingdom where through a simple majority (52% to 48%) the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union.

This reflects the power of the media since the referendum in St. Vincent and the Grenadines did not engage Barbadians in the same manner.

Arnhim Eustace & Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

A constitutional referendum was held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on November 25th 2009.Voters were asked whether they approved of a new Constitution which would have replaced the Constitution in force since independence in 1979.The proposal included removal of the Queen of England as Head of State and the adoption of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal for that country. It was supported by only 43.13% of voters in the referendum, well short of the required two-thirds threshold.

In the Vincentian process a broad-based body had been established by the Government, Opposition and the Social Partners, however by the date of the vote commentators expressed the view that the process had been hijacked by partisan political interests.

Can we get it right?

drAlexisDr. Francis Alexis Q.C. in Changing Caribbean Constitutions expresses his views on referenda thus:

To be successful, a referendum for constitutional change requires that there be national consensus on proposed changes. So there has to be astute patriotic statesmanship on the part of leading opinion shapers, especially on the part of both Government and Opposition. The process might be helped if the people have choices    among separate bills; rather than being presented with a separate bill which leaves no room for choices. [1]

Dr. Francis Alexis Q.C.

Did the UK meet the standard

This is a standard which clearly was not met in the United Kingdom starting with the £350 million pounds which would not be available to the National Health Scheme. Constitutional lawyer at the University of Liverpool Professor Michael Dougan described the Leave Campaign as dishonesty on an industrial scale. And he provides examples.

Leavers had argued that EU legislation was adopted by the unelected commission which is untrue. Professor Dougan explained that all of it is adopted by the council which is represented by the elected governments. No doubt used as a scare tactic voters were told that there was a plan in the EU to create a European army which would absorb the UK army against the will of UK citizens. The Constitutional lawyer pointed out that A common European defence policy would require approval at the domestic level within the UK parliaments. Here is the full presentation:


Professor Michael Dougan

Professor Dougan ultimately described that systematic dishonesty was used as a primary tool to win votes and as such has done untold damage to the British democracy. And he is right.

Can Barbados meet the standard?

Well what would one say about the Barbados democracy?

Barbadians are used to hearing lies from the political platform and no one seems outraged by them. They seem to accept that this is the nature of politics. It however creates apathy and disillusionment especially when the lies seem to come from both sides.

In order for the people to determine how they should vote in a referendum they must understand fully the implications of their vote. How many people actually understand how CARICOM works just as one might ask how many people understood how the EU works?

How many people understand functional cooperation and the carve outs negotiated internationally based on a single market?

Yet individuals frequently say that CARICOM is a waste of time without actually knowing.

It is accepted that members of the public whose main objective is to keep their household going would not have the time to read and internalize the Treaty of Chaguaramas as well as the various decisions of the organs of CARICOM.

We can do better

This is why Dr. Alexis’ statement is so critical. The integrity of the opinion shapers is critical.

Unless the individuals leading the campaigns are going to be honest then a referendum vote by an informed electorate would be almost impossible.

Given our history of “corned beef and biscuit” and “roti and rum” politics it would be difficult for Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago to ever reach that standard, even though  bribing electors is in breach of the election legislation.

Perhaps this is what HE Errol W. Barrow and Dr. Eric E. Williams understood when finalising the provisions of the Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago constitutions.

However theirs was a young democracy. CARICOM must work towards a more engaged and more informed electorate as our democracies mature.

Barbados celebrates 50 years of independence on November 30th, 2016.

[1] Alexis, Francis, Changing Caribbean Constitutions at paragraph 3.79

Lynette Eastmond