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Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Caribbean nurses and teachers being exploited

Caribbean Net News Barbados Correspondent
Email: dawne@caribbeannetnews.com

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: An official with the Commonwealth Secretariat says some of the Caribbean's qualified nurses and teachers who migrate to the United Kingdom are being manipulated and grossly exploited after being lured by recruiters.

Education Adviser, Dr. Roli Degazon-Johnson, made the comments as she presented a paper on 'Brain Drain, Gain and Circulation - The Recruitment, Migration and Retention of the Highly Skilled in the Caribbean' at the 7th annual conference of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies which recently concluded in Barbados.

She said the exploitation of highly skilled migrant labour is a feature of migration that is either unknown or not readily acknowledged.

Dr. Degazon-Johnson contended in her paper that "the highly skilled can be manipulated at best and grossly exploited at worst by those who are recruiting them, be they recruitment businesses and agencies, education or health bodies, even schools and hospitals which often recruit directly."

She says many of these Caribbean people have been treated disrespectfully and placed at a disadvantage following their migration.

"There is wide-spread evidence of qualified and competent teachers and nurses being prevented or restricted in benefiting fully from the compensation and benefits which they could be earning," she said.

The Commonwealth official noted that while there is a directive within the European Union which stipulates that once a graduate obtains a degree from a European tertiary institution, they have a right to be employed and treated equally anywhere in Europe, the same is not true of Commonwealth teachers.

"They are told because they do not hold United Kingdom qualifications that they do not have 'Qualified Teacher Status' and they cannot be paid on the same basis as a qualified teacher from the UK," she says in her report.

"Overseas nurses are also obliged to pursue a three-to-six month programme before they are permitted to carry out their professional duties in the UK. A long waiting list for this programme exists and in the interim the nurse would be employed as a nursing assistant at less than the salary and benefits that should be accrued to a qualified nurse."

To deal with this problem, Dr. Degazon-Johnson has suggested that Caribbean governments - through their Ministries of Education, Health and Labour - lend support to the International Labour Organisation, Education International, the World Health Organisation and the Commonwealth Secretariat which are seeking to ensure that when Caribbean people migrate, they're properly treated, their rights are respected, their qualifications are not discounted and they have the benefit of ethical recruitment procedures.