31 May, 2010
Protection of freedom of movement: The fourth of our fundamental rights enshrined in the 1982
Anguilla Constitution is protection of freedom of movement. It is found at section 5(1) of the Constitution, which reads:
No person shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, and, for the purposes of this section the said freedom means the right to move freely throughout Anguilla, the right to reside in any part of Anguilla, the right to enter Anguilla, the right to leave Anguilla, and immunity from expulsion from
This right is quite a complicated one. To explain, the section says, first, that this freedom means the right to move freely throughout
Anguilla. This seems obvious to us now. But, there was a time when labourers in England and slaves in Anguilla were obliged to reside on the farm or estate they were connected to. It was a criminal offence, punishable with the most severe penalties, for us to be found outside of the farm or estate we were tied to. Those days are long past, but this expression of this fundamental right serves to remind us of the long way we have come in recognition of human rights in the intervening centuries.
The section goes on to say that the right means the right to reside in any part of
Anguilla. This, again, seems obvious to us. Who can stop me if I want to move from Island Harbour to live in West End? But, it has not always been so. In other countries, there are laws that prohibit certain types of people from living in certain places. We find this type of provision in countries that have a poor record on recognising human rights. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, North Korea, Israel, China and , spring to mind. Burma
The explanatory words in the section remind us that this fundamental right extends to the right to enter
Anguilla. No law can be passed, say, by a West End government of Anguilla restricting the right of people from East End to enter Anguilla, if we could imagine such a thing being done. Similarly, if a law were to be passed stating that any Anguillian travelling outside of Anguilla must pay a $100.00 tax to re-enter Anguilla, that law might very well be unconstitutional as hindering our right to re-enter Anguilla.
This constitutional freedom extends to our right freely to leave
Anguilla. Government cannot put any hindrances in our way to travel freely into and out of Anguilla. It is that right that has forced governments to invent all kinds of travel documents to supplement the passport. We have a right to a passport, once we qualify as a citizen, if it is necessary for us to travel. If we cannot get a passport, then government must devise some other type of travel document. If government tries to put too many barriers in our way of getting a passport, we may even be able to bring a constitutional action to oblige the Passport Office to issue a passport that they may be holding up.