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Migrant workers wearing protective masks sit inside a trailer while starting a 14-day quarantine at a farm in Notre-Dame-de-l'Ile-Perrot, Quebec, Canada, on Friday May 8, 2020. Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $50 million in federal funding to provide $1,500 per worker, which can be used to cover wages while they are in quarantine or the cost of sheltering them appropriately in isolation for 14 days, CBC reported. Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg

OECS partnerships secure safe travel for seasonal workers

Migrant workers wearing protective masks sit inside a trailer while starting a 14-day quarantine at a farm in Notre-Dame-de-l'Ile-Perrot, Quebec, Canada, on Friday May 8, 2020. Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $50 million in federal funding to provide $1,500 per worker, which can be used to cover wages while they are in quarantine or the cost of sheltering them appropriately in isolation for 14 days, CBC reported. Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission has worked with its Canadian partners to ensure the safe entry of 180 OECS nationals into Canada on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, to participate in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP).

According to the OECS Commission, it recognises that ongoing travel restrictions, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has created uncertainty around the possibility of farmers travelling to the North American country.

“Cognisant of the economic implications of a contracted programme and wary of the health risks of travelling, the OECS Commission — through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) — worked closely with the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), CanAg Travel Services, the Government of Canada and Sunwing Airlines to facilitate the safe passage of 180 OECS nationals to Canada, via a chartered flight, on Tuesday, 12 May 2020,” the commission said in a release.

Further, the OECS Commission pointed out that it had to implement and adhere to stringent health and safety protocols before the departure of the seasonal workers. These protocols were implemented locally, by the respective Ministry of Labour, with support from the Ministry of Health and the Police force; and in Canada by the ECLS, in collaboration with Canadian authorities.  

“Healthy multilateral collaboration between the OECS Commission, the Government of Canada and the Governments of participating OECS Member States made it possible for these seasonal agricultural workers to benefit from their annual contracts… ”

— Dr Didacus Jules, director general, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

“The OECS Commission, via the ECLS, ensured that all 180 workers were welcomed and assisted on arrival in Canada by the head, ECLS, Mr Olaf Fontenelle and the ECLS team – who will ensure the well-being of all OECS farm workers while employed in Canada,” the release continued.

With the seasonal workers having safely landed in Canada, Director General of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules has since commended the collaborative effort of the commission and its Canadian partners.

Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Dr Didacus Jules (File photo)

“Healthy multilateral collaboration between the OECS Commission, the Government of Canada and the Governments of participating OECS Member States made it possible for these seasonal agricultural workers to benefit from their annual contracts, at a time when OECS economies are most vulnerable and sustaining employment is essential,” the director general noted.

To this end, Jules expressed gratitude to the Canadian High Commission in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), Global Affairs Canada and the Temporary Foreign Worker Directorate of the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for providing the support needed to transport the 180 OECS workers to Canada.