Premier Andrew Fahie has said disgruntled expatriates could take legal action against the government for what they might believe to be procrastination with their applications for regularized status.
The Premier, who made the remarks at a recent sitting of the House of Assembly, was underscoring the reasons his administration was working swiftly to clear the backlog of applications.
“It is only a matter of time before an applicant becomes frustrated enough to sue the BVI for failing to resolve their application in a timely manner; based on policy or law or for unjustly denying them residency or Belonger status,” Fahie said.
He continued: “When we are talking about people whose applications have been pending for 25, 35 and 40-plus years it is easy to see how a court could find that they have a legitimate expectation and the BVI has acted in an unfair manner, or we have breached the rules of natural justice.”
Changing system on long-time applicants could also mean lawsuit
The Premier said the territory could be further sued if the backlogged cases were to be imported into a system with new criteria for approval.
“You see if you change the system mainstream on someone, they can go to the court and say they have been treated unfairly.”
He said there is a possibility that the court could rule in favour of a mandatory regularization or Belongership for the person.
“This comes from legal research. A legal precedence can be set, or it could take the form of a class action ruling, and the government could be forced by the court to regularize every single one of those persons without exception. So to prevent any complications down the road, we should try to start with a clean slate,” Fahie argued.
In the meantime, the Premier said the laws pertaining to the issue must be updated to suit the territory’s ‘new realities’.
“Our Immigration and Labour system has been broken for a long time, so it has to be fixed, and the time to fix it is now. The current Immigration and Passport Act was enacted in 1977, those provisions would have been no doubt relevant time. But it has now been 42 years since those laws took effect and a lot has changed not only with the rest of the world but with the BVI itself,” he said.
Fahie said the overall objective of the Labour and Immigration reform that is currently underway, is to tighten-up the territory’s borders and put controls in place to reduce the incidents of persons merely staying in the territory indefinitely and then accumulating rights and expectations.
“We intend to make it clear to people entering our borders from this time forth what to expect before they hit our shores.”
Premier Fahie added that “the enlistment of expatriate labour in the BVI is inevitable”.
“It is a cold hard reality,” he said.
Fahie also said the United Kingdom could also make the decision for the territory since the issue has already made its way to the House of Commons.
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