1. The Caribbean Community is confronted with an unprecedented threat whereby a Member territory could actually cease to exist, not as a result of a plebiscite, but as the result of a natural disaster and its consequences. Montserrat, though a British dependent territory, is one of the earliest members of CARICOM, and the Community has a legitimate interest in its well-being and future.
2. CARICOM recognises that the United Kingdom has sovereign competence over Montserrat, and calls on the British Government to demonstrate its responsibilities and obligations to the people of Montserrat by:
(a) ensuring their safety through relocation both in and off the island;
(b) providing the necessary infrastructure required for relocation on the island;
(c) providing housing and other humanitarian needs on the island, including health and educational facilities.
3. Following strong representation by the Government of Montserrat, the Bureau on the basis of such scientific evidence as is presently available, has decided to support the development of the North of Montserrat and upholds the right of those who wish to remain in the habitable one-third of the island to do so, with the understanding that they are fully cognisant of the threat which may still be posed by the volcano, as it is still in the phase of increasing activity.
4. The Bureau joined the Government of Montserrat in expressing heartfelt gratitude to the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda for the selfless way in which they have responded to the crisis by accepting more than three thousand (3,000) Montserratians without any restrictions whatsoever. The Bureau recognises that the absorption of displaced Montserratians has also taken place in other Caribbean Member States. The Bureau calls on the Government of the United Kingdom to exercise its responsibility to the displaced Montserratians by providing assistance to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and other willing Caribbean Governments which have facilitated their absorption.
5. The Bureau expressed its grave concern over the inadequacy of resources being provided for those Montserratians who opt to accept the voluntary evacuation package being offered by the British Government, as well as those who opt for relocation to the Northern sector.
6. The Bureau agreed that its Chairman, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson would write a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair of United Kingdom, expressing CARICOM’s concerns relating to Montserrat, and expressing a desire to work with the British Government in ensuring a prompt and effective response to the needs of the people of Montserrat.
7. The Bureau reaffirmed CARICOM’s stated commitment to the early construction of a CARICOM Village in the North of Montserrat. In this connection the Bureau noted with satisfaction that the Chairman of Conference turned the sod at the site being prepared for the construction of the Village at Davy Hill, Montserrat. Member States also agreed to:
(a) expedite procedures relating to immigration and work permit arrangements for Montserratians; and
(b) receive Montserratians on a temporary basis until adequate provisions are made for their resettlement in the north of the island.
8. The Bureau urged the Government of the United Kingdom to make representations at all international fora for assistance and support on behalf of Montserrat, and pledged its full support in this respect.
9. The Bureau also agreed that a small CARICOM team led by the present Chairman of the OECS would meet with Minister George Foulkes, who is scheduled to visit the Region this week.
10. The Bureau recognised the need for the dissemination to the Caribbean people of more objective information on the present situation in Montserrat. To this end they urged the Caribbean Media to be more actively involved in this process.
11. The Bureau agreed that technical expertise required by the Government of Montserrat, should be expeditiously provided. Particular attention should be paid to the social infrastructure -health, education and the environment – as an integral component of the management of this ongoing disaster and the development process for the north of Montserrat. The Bureau endorsed the recommendations emanating from the Regional Resource Team which had been established by the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at its 8th Inter Sessional Meeting held in Antigua and Barbuda in February 1997.
12. The Bureau expressed great concern at the imminent withdrawal of property and general insurance coverage from Montserrat and its implications for economic development. They urged that immediate and long term solutions be found.
13. The Bureau recognised that the current disaster crisis in Montserrat can occur elsewhere in the Region which is already subjected to a range of other natural disasters. The Bureau therefore stressed the need for strengthening seismic research and hazard assessment capacity, and for improving the scientific and disaster management capability of the Region.