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The plight of immigrants in the VI- The message is clear

- Weekly articles written by Kenneth G. Gladstone & Published by PSI Network Since 2017
Kenneth G. Gladstone. Photo: Provided

The entire Virgin Islands has been closely observing the developments within the Territory since the beginning of the year under the new VIP administration, and sure enough one would expect to have flip flops here and there every now and then given that the new administration consists mainly of new and inexperienced political representatives, which in one way could be a very good thing in that they are less likely to make decisions based on conventional norms.

On the other hand, the consequences could be devastating due to inexperience. The success of the team is therefore dependent on the experience of the Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) who has been around local politics practically all his life, and Honourable Julian Fraser RA, though unliked by many, serves as a balancer given his valuable senior experience.

While the Territory has great expectations for the new administration for the most part, there seems to have been a dramatic shift in the leadership style of government to the point where all people across the Territory are currently expressing their insecurity in relation to the direction currently taken by government in many areas, and while many will never speak publicly about these matters, the lava is at boiling point and about to spill over as locals fume in disgust at the decisions taken by the Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration.

The Causes for Concern

COVID-19 related unemployed immigrants to be sent home

The alarm began when COVID-19 stepped in, devastated the local economy, and perhaps out of fear the government took the decision that all immigrants rendered unemployed by COVID-19 will be sent home. This sent shockwaves across the Virgin Islands, given that the families of all parties, including locals, will be affected by this decision. Currently, the community at large is in a tail spin as affected immigrants make plans to face their new fate. Whether some will leave their families on local soil to return to a life they know not, or join family abroad, many are shocked to face the unknown without financial support given the present ordeal. The deep pain they feel arise from the fact that they have given years of their lives to the Virgin Islands considered to be their home, only now to be thrown out. Many are the tears shed in light of this plight.

Non-renewal of permits without a clean Social Security & NHI bill of health

Since hurricanes Irma and Maria, many local businesses have not been able to recuperate from the devastation much the more to make a profit. Many businesses are currently operating in earnest to keep their doors open in the hope that things will get better, yet, it seems it only gets worst.

It seems the Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration is quite unaware of the struggles businesses face. To think that immigrants could be sent home because of not having a good Social Security and NHI record only highlights the fact that many local businesses were not paying these returns to government, which is not the fault of immigrants. This is another failed attempt to corner immigrants to have them sent home. This noose which was intended to be tightened around the neck of the immigrant is again set to inflict serious pain on the already hurting local community. Even if plans are put in place for delinquent companies to pay their backlog, at this point in history when COVID-19 has interrupted the capacity for growth and development, it will be a miracle if these businesses will ever be able to come up with their outstanding arrears.

The Virgin Islands (VI) is comprised of over sixty six percent immigrants to thirty three percent locals. If immigrants are rendered unemployed and the best decision is to send them home without finding a resolve to continue production so they can earn locally, this will have serious, devastating economic consequences and will shake the local community to its knees. If the immigrant community should be significantly reduced, many apartments will be inhabited by rats and roaches, some will be repossessed by the banks, local families will be rendered needy or dependent on government, local businesses will close, local families will be devastated by separations and breakages, and the list goes on. Are these factors taken into consideration by the Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration?

Immigrants on work permit & permit exemption holders barred from entering the Territory indefinitely

A certain news outlet published that Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1) on the heels of the [British] Virgin Islands’ ninth recorded COVID-19 case, announced that work permit holders and work permit exemption holders have been barred from entry into the Territory, the decision taking immediate effect, and no timeframe has been given for the ban.

The concern on the ground is the fact that locals were allowed to return home and arrangements made to have them quarantined, which seems to be working well. The question is, if this is home for locals, work permit holders and work permit exemption holders have their families within the Territory, many investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the place they call home, why can't the government make similar arrangements for work permit and work permit exemption holders as a fair measure for all rather than appearing biased to allow locals only to travel home, yet preventing the backbone of the Territory from entering? Many locals are having a serious problem with this decision, yet no one seems to be able to speak about it.

Permit ready, yet passport held by Immigration

In closing, a case came to my attention of an immigrant who was granted permission by her boss to seek employment elsewhere given the demise of that company. The immigrant obtained another job, the permit was processed by the Labour Department and was declared ready, yet the passport of the immigrant was held indefinitely by the immigration department on the grounds that immigrants living in the Territory under five years and moving to a new job must first exit the Territory while the permit is being processed.

However, due to COVID-19, the immigrant like all else was not able to move given the closure of all airports. Now that the permit is ready to be picked up, the Immigration Department refuses to hand over the immigrant's passport to be updated, perhaps owing to the fact that the immigrant should exit the territory then return, even though all airports are currently closed due to COVID-19.

Wouldn't it therefore be reasonable for the immigrant's passport to be delivered to be updated given the circumstances? The sad truth is the fact that the Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, upon my informing him of the situation, seems to be convinced that if there was an issue, the Immigration Department would inform him of the matter. Yet, it is now approximately three months since the immigrant's passport has been confiscated without a word. You be the judge.

Moneygram & Western Union may need to close operations in VI

It was also decided by the Premier that all outbound money transactions at Western Union and Moneygram should be taxed seven percent. This made it difficult for low income earners who were already paying ten to twelve dollars for each transactions, to now pay ten dollars plus seven percent on the amount to be sent to their loved ones back home or abroad.

This has significantly reduced the money flow via Western Union and Moneygram, and alternate means was immediately sought to send money to family and loved ones abroad. It is now very obvious that the Moneygram and Western Union lines have literally dried up at all money transfer agencies, and these agencies are now faced with the daunting task of keeping their doors open. Sadly, the noose which was intended to tighten around the neck of the immigrant is now choking the life out of the local economy.

The obvious facts

In light of the above facts, it is now very clear that all efforts implemented to benefit the the local community via the immigrant, have exploded in the face of the local community, and only the local community is set to feel the pain generated by these decisions. Additionally, nothing more is needed to conclude that the VI government is on a role to rid the Territory of immigrants in a very blatant way. It is very clear that the time has come for all immigrants to wake up to this reality, get their houses in order, and hit the next available flight out of the territory to a place where their value can be appreciated. Whether one has been in the VI for a decade or a century, the scant disregard for VI immigrants is obviously alarming, and no immigrant will be seen as part of VI community if they are "NOT FROM HERE!"

Permit exemption is a mockery, and selling one's birthright to become a "belonger" is an insult to one's nationality! The fact is, if one is not respected first as a human being, and secondly for their contribution to a community, be it known that it is an absolute waste of time, energy and resources to even be associated with a community. The fact is, if exploitation has become the norm for the immigrant community in the VI, immigrants need to have more dignity in themselves and immediately make better decisions for themselves and their families. "Dogs are not invited where no bones are provided" - and if this is the current reality of immigrants in the VI, all immigrants need to take immediate steps to reposition themselves where they can grow, make a decent contribution to a community, and be respected for it. If this is not the case, the time has come to take the most drastic, yet the best decision ever as we move into the twenty-first century.

Thanks for reading.

(Please note: The thoughts reflected are those of locals and immigrants within the VI).

35 Responses to “The plight of immigrants in the VI- The message is clear”

  • Dejavous (05/08/2020, 08:40) Like (12) Dislike (3) Reply
    Well put out sir .real life in the bvi
  • reese (05/08/2020, 09:03) Like (20) Dislike (10) Reply
    The article should be entitled "The Plight of the VI under Immigrant Overrun"
    The Vi,its people,its social services,its educational structure, its prison,its Courts and its hospital are all saturated and utilized to the max by immigrants with no give back. Its culture and character has been anihalated and disrespected by an immigrant population with little to offer but menial labour,poverty and crime. I agree with the author that they would do themselves good by taking flight to a place or places with an appreciation for their questionable contributions.

    • tretretrete (05/08/2020, 09:39) Like (8) Dislike (6) Reply
      According to the United Nations, the USVI is the new murder capital of the Caribbean.
      Thanks to the influx of immigrants from the Caribbean Islands. This is the plight of the USVI and The BVI.
      Mr Premier, you gave status to 2000 plus of the harbingers of lesser Caribbean values and now they saying Thank You the way they always do. Not even to God do they give thanks.
      • yes yes (09/08/2020, 08:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        you hate when the truth is put out there for all to see. he is right
    • Slim Jim (05/08/2020, 10:04) Like (12) Dislike (1) Reply
      Sir, with all due respect, you speak out of ignorance and deep-rooted prejudice. Try walking a few miles in their shoes and then give your opinion. Education is a boss.

      And, yes, I am a proud BVIslander who is nevertheless deeply disturned and embarased by the plight of our Caribbean brothers and sisters (not "down-islanders"). We came here on the same boats from Africa, we are in the same economic strangelehold from the more developed countries who have all exploited us for centuries and continue to do so, and unless we find ways to live and work together, we will die alone.

      let who has an ear to hear, hear.
    • Yep (05/08/2020, 11:12) Like (18) Dislike (9) Reply
      Reese i could not have put it better than u. You sum up almost everything in one shot paragraph. Good work. I am an expat and my gosh look what we have done to these people. All they do is excepted us with open arms from the sixties up until now . I would never want to see and hear the country that i came from is overrun by expatriates and trying to control the running of the bvi. I agree with you almost every aspect or the bvi society has been annihilated by immigrants. This is a fact. Mr Gladstone you said it right they should take a flight. Hope you yourself mr Gladstone do the same. You also encourage the immigrant population to move to another country that they would be appreciated. Well you mr Gladstone tell us one country that would want to be overrun by immigrants?? You tell me one. Ain't no other eastern Caribbean island want to be overrun by expatriates surely not the one i came from. These beautiful virgin islanders need to take a stand in their dawn own country. For far to long they have been to silent. Now they have a government that is helping its people to speak up loudly you mr Gladstone and others are saying all manner of evil against them because they want certain things their way. My gosh man let the bvi move on with its people. The people of the bvi has been doing things their way for 186 yrs and they been getting it right thats why we expatriates flocking here. We are here because they have been doing most things right thsts why we are here. Now we expatriates are telling them that what they are doing is and was wrong. I can't even go in my country of birth and have any say. Why are we doing it to the people of the bvi?? I am begging the premier and minister of labour along with the other ministers to please implement the plan of limiting the yrs for work permit otherwise in the next 15 to 20 yrs if so long this small island would be gone from you guys. It would be a love basket coming around election time and some building materials just like what is taking place in many eastern Caribbean islands. Watch most of the eastern Caribbean islands and see what taking place when election is near. Do we want this kind of living for your people ?? My government this is the only time you are going to get to reverse this trend that the expatriates population is causing to happen. Bvi people as i know them from 30 yrs ago have pride and dignity and never believe in hand outs. When i came here over 30 yrs ago the bvi lander's use to find money and valuables and turn it in to the police they didn't want another person stuff and they were afraid of obeah.please my government put restrictions on the work permit holders. Afrer five yrs you must leave otherwise major disaster ahead and now is the time to get it right once and for all.
      • reese (05/08/2020, 12:06) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
        Thank You!
        The truth is evident !
      • Mehson (05/08/2020, 13:52) Like (1) Dislike (4) Reply
        You came here from where you come from someone p****h in you head i notice your long commit all the time god no like ugly stop upholding wrong we all will feel are hear the out come of these decisions taken by the government wait and you will see if the almighty try us like how we dese4no of us would be here to cherish evil an our own brother and sisters, TTHAN YOU ALL MATCH BOTH BLACK LIFR MATTER RUBBISH
      • Local @ East End (05/08/2020, 21:53) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
        Yep I second that.
        Its the most honest piece of blog Ive everseen in my 50yrs. in regards to such matters.
        Mr. Gladstone needs to talk positively about the BVI and its locals as well.
      • check it out (09/08/2020, 08:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        the same so called tolan did not born here neither, they and their children was born in the US/ so why don't they leave too? right is right. stop standing on their parents strength, for many of their parents and grand came here small.
    • @reese (05/08/2020, 11:55) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      Sounds more like the UK but I’m sure you would be the first to describe Brexit as racist.
    • @reese (05/08/2020, 13:00) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
      "Its culture and character has been anihalated (sic) and disrespected by an immigrant population with little to offer but menial labour, poverty and crime." Wow! You are painting with a VERY broad brush! Not all BV Islanders are the same, and neither are all immigrants. I am an immigrant. When I came here there was no local qualified in my field. I didn't come from poverty and I certainly do not contribute to the poverty or crime in the BVI. The schools, hospitals, and other social services are funded through monies collected from locals and immigrants alike. Technically speaking, since there are currently more immigrants than locals ...
    • Blak Alucard (08/08/2020, 09:53) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
  • one eye (05/08/2020, 09:08) Like (2) Dislike (3) Reply
    Good piece but to long to read
  • Jesus Wept. (05/08/2020, 10:06) Like (3) Dislike (7) Reply
    Well said brother, well said!
  • Daim (05/08/2020, 12:26) Like (2) Dislike (5) Reply
    Well said sir.
  • Rubber Duck (05/08/2020, 14:10) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    Those howling for the immigrants to be shipped out should pause to appreciate that you are shipping out two thirds of businesses customers and ninety percent of renters. Never mind most of the workers. Next time you want that Guyanese mechanic to fix your air con he may be gone. Next time you try to rent out that high priced apartment you might find there are no takers. When the NHI loses 60% of its contributions you might not get that operation. You might head for your favorite restaurant to find it closed down. Be careful what you wish for.
    • @rubber duck (05/08/2020, 15:35) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
      No one is indespensible and no one is irreplaceable. The VI needs to be more selective and enforcement of immigration policies should be paramount. Labourers and consumers are not in short supply to a place such as the VI.
  • Maxwell (05/08/2020, 14:40) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    I am a BVIslander and while we need expat Labour, we don’t need to be overran. Even country has the right to decide who to allow to enter its borders. This is a good time to take control of our borders. Honestly speaking, I don’t blame U.K. nationals for voting to leave the EU in order to control immigration into the U.K. It was only a matter of time before U.K. nationals decide enough is enough. I for one don’t hate my Caribbean brothers and sisters but I would be a hypocrite not to express my concern that the BVI is too small to host so many immigrants only to say that we are welcoming. Work permit holders are just that. It doesn’t give them indefinite leave to remain in the BVI. I have no problem with the Government decision to hold off on allowing work permit holders back in the territory for the time being or until the economy picks up. Tell me, why should work permit holders who normally work in the charter industry be allowed in at this time when the borders are closed to tourists who would ordinarily be coming into the BVI to charter sailboats? The Government did not say they wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter. That said, however, they should only be allowed in once the borders are fully open to tourists. Before this happens the Government should make sure that the necessary protocols are in place to stop Covid -19 from being imported when the borders do open to tourists coming from hot spots, especially the USA.
  • Expat (05/08/2020, 16:15) Like (2) Dislike (2) Reply
    Well they never give any consideration to those locked out, we have our families and all our belonging in the Bvi if u dont want us back in give us our stuff and let us go back in to get our kids etc.
  • GG (05/08/2020, 16:47) Like (5) Dislike (3) Reply
    I do hope that the current toxic climate of hate is not indicative of our country's future. For mixed BVIslanders we understand both perspectives: those BVIsanders who are concerned about disenfranchisement and a sense of being dominated or disrespected by outsiders, but we are also alarmed by the growing hatred towards our Caribbean brothers and sisters and the Trumpian rhetoric that all immigrants are criminals or disrespectful persons who should take what they get. Look folks we are too small for this: the disrespect on both sides needs to stop! We are boxing ourselves into a corner, damaging our own future to score points against those we hate, disrespecting our own and burning bridges that we will need to cross at one point or the other. I am really worried about what kind of BVI our children will be raised in: right now it's not looking too good. Just too much hate - the disturbing part is that deep rooted prejudice - which I have to believe does not represent all BVIslanders - appears to be creeping into our policy making process. When we cut off the rental income for many BVIslanders and squeeze out various industries - what happens to most mortgage payers and local business owners? When we are angry the chance to score against others looks like a victory, but we shoot ourselves in the foot when the "others" that we fight end up being ourselves. The thing about acting out of hate is that hate blinds: it focuses you on your victim whilst blocking out the long term impact of that bullet. Think before we shoot BVIslanders - we just might be shooting ourselves and our children's future with it.
    • @wow (05/08/2020, 19:08) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      Still I believe that you do favor the views of foreign Occupants, although one of your parents is of BVI lineage. The bottom line is that many of our people will be returning home, and many foreign residents will be returning to their homeland and each nation has its economic challenges ahead. May God help us all!
  • down2earth (05/08/2020, 17:39) Like (6) Dislike (3) Reply
    To the author of this article, I am a Virgin Islander by birth (generations included and not by grandfather, uncle, brother or cousin). My question to you is; Do you really care about the Virgin Islands? Before submitting any article, put it down and re-read a lot of times. Then ask yourself "Is this really what I want to say and convey?"
  • Yes. Truth u speaking (05/08/2020, 17:46) Like (3) Dislike (11) Reply
    This is a true, fair and unbias assessment of this government....Weli said boss..
  • island man (05/08/2020, 21:14) Like (0) Dislike (3) Reply
    People need to get back in to secure their apartments for the hurricane peak time. Dont they think about this before discriminating the few expats that are locked out.
  • Ghost (05/08/2020, 22:06) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    I’ve read all that you have said and I believe you are so wrong to be funneling this propaganda as though the Government have an agenda to get rid of all expats..You’re also making it seem as though the xenophobia is one-sided (locals against expats) and not some of them against us as well.. let me ask you this question - how would you feel to be a minority in “your own” country.. yes you all make up a larger percentage of our population and that is partly due to a workforce need and also when some expats come and work in this country they get in good with the employer to bring in either their friend or family and then that employer would advertise the post As a formality when they well know they’re not giving the position to any local; also when some expats get in position it’s like they plan to stay in it forever and not do succession planning for a local to have that position going speak about government bias what is wrong with a government looking out for its own.. I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot wouid you be singing the same song..
    • Why (09/08/2020, 08:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      why do you think that is, because you tola always run to the USA/US to give birth so you put yourselves in a position to be out numbered. so let it go.
  • Question Marks (05/08/2020, 23:47) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
    What is this person doing in another man's country stirring up confusion?

    Why are they still here?

    Could they do the same thing where they come from?
  • ReX FeRal (06/08/2020, 00:40) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    This article is es holly biased. Mr.Gladsyone you know better. Come on man. Expat have a love /hate relationship with thd Virgin Islands and you know it.
  • $$$$ (07/08/2020, 14:54) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    The economic situation that has developed as a result of hurricanes and the current pandemic is extremely unfortunate. As such, our government (much like other governments e.g. Cayman Islands) must make decisions that may not be popular with all (similar to when about 2000 foreigners were given rights. This was very popular with the expats but not welcomed by many locals). In such circumstances, people like Mr. Gladstone should seek to offer solutions rather that use the opportunity to stir tension amongst the local and expat populations. At the end of the day, if the economic situation is not such that all can be sustained, locals should be given first consideration and I say that apologetically. Where expats may have the option of going home, please remember that locals are already at home and many may not have the option of going elsewhere.

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