News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Oct. 20. 2023: The EU has raised security concerns about the Caribbean Citizenship By Investment Programs also called the trade in “golden passports,” and vowed to tighten visa controls after revealing five Caribbean states have sold citizenship to 88,000 individuals from countries including Iran, Russia and China.
A report published by the European Commission on Wednesday sets out for the first time the true scale of the Caribbean passport trade. A number of countries sell citizenship to foreign nationals, with prices starting at $100,000 (£82,326) a head.
Dominica, an island with a population of just over 70,000, has issued 34,500 passports, the report claimed. The number is more than four times the total previously disclosed by Dominica’s government. St Kitts and Nevis, with a population of 48,000, has issued 36,700 passports, twice as many as estimated up to 2018.
The announcement follows publication of Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean, an investigation by the UK Guardian and other media organizations in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which examined Dominica’s citizenship by investment scheme in unprecedented detail.
The sale of passports in Dominica surged after 2015 when citizens of a number of Caribbean states were given permission to travel to most EU member states for 90 days a year without a visa. St Kitts reached agreement on visa-free travel with the EU in 2009. Overall, the EU has visa-free travel agreements with 60 countries.
The European Union plans to tighten visa controls due to the revelation that these countries have sold citizenship to 88,000 individuals, including those from Iran, Russia, and China.
The European Commission aims to have the power to suspend visa exemptions for countries selling citizenship without a “genuine link” to the country. This issue arose due to the surge in passport sales after the visa-free travel agreements between Caribbean states and the EU. EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson expressed security concerns about allowing individuals with security risks to change their identities through such programs. Migration and asylum concerns also emerged as 150,000 passengers used visa-free travel to enter the EU and claim asylum. The report questioned the thoroughness of security screening and pointed out the nationalities of golden passport holders, which mostly include individuals from countries with high corruption levels.
The EU emphasized that visa-free access should not be commercialized. The threat of losing this privilege could impact native-born citizens, as previously occurred when the UK withdrew visa-free travel from its former colony due to abuse of the scheme.