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Patterson wants visas scrapped for Caribbean-Africa travel

P. J. PATTERSON has called for the removal of visa requirements and all Customs barriers to facilitate easier travel between Caribbean and African nations.

This, he contends, will promote a genuine symbiotic relationship.

The former prime minister of Jamaica and statesman-in-residence at the Africa-Caribbean Institute for Advocacy at The University of the West Indies (UWI) was speaking at Thursday’s Africa-CARICOM Day public forum ‘Unity Across Continents and Oceans’ at The UWI’s Regional Headquarters in St Andrew.

As September 7 also marks two years since Kenya hosted the inaugural CARICOM-Africa Union (AU) Summit, the forum was convened to commemorate Africa-CARICOM Day.

“The relationships we seek to restore and strengthen are akin to a great and grand family union,” Patterson noted, adding that there is a desire to get to know and embrace one another.

“We in the Caribbean need to see from where we came, and our African uncles and aunts need to visit where their nephews and nieces now dwell,” he said.

He expressed his hopes of seeing a “new brand of tourism” that would encourage cultural festivals, competitive sport, and student exchanges.

“That is how we cement the ancestorial bonds and effectively ensure the spread of knowledge, innovation, and sense of oneness by direct people-to-people contact,” he said.

In the latter part of the forum, Patterson, in response to a question asked about having to first address the issues of intra-regional travel within the Caribbean, said that the current circumstances surrounding this topic were “mind-boggling”.


He explained that the situation of travel within the region was “worse than it has ever been” and stated that the current travel crises of CARICOM nations having to travel through the American state of Miami was “offensive”.

“I resent, going to the Caribbean, having to go through Miami ... the Americans shouldn’t be deciding when we visit each other,” he said.

Patterson shared that during his tenure at the former University College of the West Indies, now known as The UWI, where he served as treasurer of the guild of students, he would organise a tour of the Caribbean on the Federal Maple and Federal Palm – both multipurpose ships that were donated by the Government of Canada.

According to him, many of the Jamaican students were visiting other Caribbean islands for the first time.

“We’ve gone from the time where we had the Federal Palm and the Federal Maple to a situation where there is not a single vessel that sails in the Caribbean. With the collapse of the LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport Services), some islands are almost unreachable,” he said.

The LIAT was a regional airline headquartered in Antigua and Barbuda that operated high-frequency inter-island scheduled services to 15 destinations in the Caribbean.

But Patterson said that while he was aware of the travel situation causing much vexation, he had every reason to believe, especially with several initiatives being suggested, that regional travel would be high on the agenda for next year’s’ Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.


During his remarks, Patterson also pointed to the need for Caribbean countries to be able to protect their natural environments in light of the problems posed by climate change particularly affecting small island states.

“As we commemorate this memorable day, September 7th , there is gathered in Nairobi (Kenya) a summit of African heads to discuss the existential threat of climate change, which exposes so many of our Caribbean islands to extinction, and I’m pleased to report that there are representatives from the Caribbean participating in that meeting,” he said.

In highlighting the concerns of climate change such as rising sea levels, frequent and devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, and floods, Patterson noted that the 14 countries of CARICOM and the 54 nations of Africa must unite to keep states accountable with the Paris accord and “insist that the polluters pay in full for the destruction they have caused to our natural environment and fragile ecosystems.”

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. Its objective is to keep the global average temperature increase well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue measures to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“Simultaneously, Africa and the Caribbean must mobilise their scientific expertise and provide adequate resources for climate-change mitigation, adaptation strategies, and initiatives to safeguard our natural environment and promote resilience,” he added.

Patterson also stressed the significance of Africa and the Caribbean finding the solutions to overcome centuries of enslavement and imperial exploitation to create sustainable development and self-reliance.

“The younger generation will never accept that poverty and hunger must forever be our lot. The conflict in Ukraine has served to heighten the issue of food security. It threatens a shortage of the essential ingredients of food supplies, particularly on the African continent,” he said.

Patterson added that the importation of food was still too high in the Caribbean and would further increase as the tourism sector expands unless something is done to boost local food production to supply the sector’s needs.

“Food security, therefore, deserves the highest priority. Hence, we note with considerable satisfaction the establishment of EXIM bank’s Caribbean headquarters in Barbados and applaud the announcement of its president to place a heavy emphasis on developing food security in its lending and credit-facility programmes,” he said.