Imagine my dilemma, it was 4:00am, suitcases were packed, headed to the airport to catch my flight, I approached the check-in counter and dun dun dun dun…. I couldn’t find my PASSPORT!!!
The horror… I searched high, I searched low, but try as I might, my passport was nowhere in sight.
As I looked up at the counter attendant to express utter defeat; my expression became puzzled as she smiled and asked me for my driver’s license. “My driver’s license?” I asked, “Yes” she answered; “You’re travelling to a fellow Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) territory, so once you have a valid photo ID with your nationality on it, you can benefit from our OECS free movement agreement”.
Oh joy, my horror had quickly turned to delight as I boarded my first passport free flight. As I finally arrived at the destination, my mind began to wonder on all the other possibilities that the OECS free movement had to offer. So I did some research and this is what I found out:
Following the collapse of the West Indies Federation, the Treaty of Basseterre agreement was signed on June 18th, 1981 by seven (7) Eastern Caribbean countries that wanted to promote cooperation, unity and a host of other principles amongst each other, thereby establishing the OECS.
Currently now a nine (9) member grouping comprising of members and associate members states, the OECS signed the revised Treaty of Basseterre on June 18th, 2010; thereby establishing the OECS Economic Union and making the free movement of people within the OECS possible on August 1st, 2011.
Now although solid commitments time and time again have been given that citizens of the OECS can enjoy the benefits of free movement throughout the Economic Union, some OECS member governments still haven’t fully put into effect, all the required free movement laws to make them a reality.
Despite all this, even after celebrating two (2) years, there are also still many OECS citizens who may not also be fully aware of some of the existing benefits available for them under the free movement agreement; even though not completely available in all OECS member states, such as:
– visa free travel among member states without a passport
– ability to study or get training via educational institutions in member states
– potential entrepreneurial markets for business or trade among member states
– tax benefits for operating in member states
– access to medical and other social services available in member states
– equal treatment in looking for jobs and working without permits in member states
– being able to stay and hold permanent residence or even retire in member states
So as I reflect on my almost flightless ordeal, I am very proud to have joined the ranks of those whom have experienced OECS travel, passport free – only with their national ID.
Visit the OECS website at http://www.oecs.org/
Elijah James is a young Caribbean diplomat with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He holds special interests in communications, democracy and youth development. His passion for social change led him to become the founder of Volunteers United (Vu); a local NGO committed to capacity building and resource mobilization within civil society. One of his current designations is that of Caribbean Youth Think Tank Representative for Antigua & Barbuda in the Youth-IN project.