Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. — File Photo
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Caribbean island nations on Wednesday discussed boosting security to ensure terrorists and other criminals do not gain citizenship by posing as investors.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said that although the island’s citizenship-by-investment program has provided a major source of revenue, the government is not prepared to sacrifice its national security.
"We have to come to terms with that, that in this global terrorism atmosphere that we are now dealing with, we have to be extremely careful that one incident, one person being allowed in our region can in fact create havoc," he told reporters at a Caribbean leaders’ annual summit being held in Guyana, where the topic has been under discussion.
Having tightened its screening process, Granada has rejected even some applicants approved by international partners based on anecdotal information, he added.
One country’s policies affect the others because the European Union-style free-movement regime of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) allows Caribbean nationals to travel freely throughout the region without visas.
St Kitts and Nevis – which pioneered selling citizenship to investors for as much as US$500,000 per applicant, but whose economy depends chiefly on tourism – credited the revenue source with funding the construction of internationally recognized hotels.
"It has been a positive development," the twin-island federation’s prime minister, Timothy Harris, told reporters. "What is equally true is that it has to be managed well, and we are committed as a government to ensure that we have the most robust due-diligence program because of the reputational downside damage that could occur and because of the evolving security arrangement in which we live."
Canada enacted a visa regime for St Kitts and Nevis residents almost two years ago because of concerns about its citizenship-by-investment program.
Dominica, St Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda have also cashed in on citizenship-by-investment programs that have helped them weather declining tourist numbers during economic downturns in Europe and the United States.
Elsewhere, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, the United States and Canada offer similar citizenship programs. — AFP