Minister responsible for Immigration Vincent Wheatley is assuring that government’s expatriate regularisation initiative will not cause any sudden and dramatic spike in the territory’s population.
“There are concerns that we are going to increase our population by 10,000 people or 15,000 people overnight. The quick answer is no. Most of the folks who are going to be regularised, they are here already, they’re living here, they’re born here, their husbands, their wives, their cousins, their friends,” Wheatley said in a recent interview with BVI News.
The minister also said informative programmes will be made available to locals who may have those concerns.
According to Wheatley, the regularisation initiative is a step towards creating what he described as a more inclusive BVI.
“We are really trying to help persons who’ve lived among us, who’ve been here for long periods with absolutely no status. They are kids who have been born here, lived all their lives in the BVI and know no place else besides the BVI. We got to make sure these persons feel at home amongst us,” the minister said.
And while noting that other counties have faced similar Immigration issues within their population, Wheatley admitted that the regularisation undertaking will not be an easy task.
“Anything this large is a huge undertaking. If you look at the United States and Donald Trump, its all about immigration so it’s no light undertaking. If you look at Brexit in the United Kingdom it’s all about immigration. If you look at Europe, it’s all about immigration,” said Wheatley who noted that the BVI government undertook a similar regularisation initiative in 2004
Wheatley, in the meantime, commended the Premier for tackling the issue within his short period in office.
He added that, if left unattended, the issue could create even greater problems in the future.
“I think we just can’t simply ignore it and just keep kicking the can down the road. At some point in time, we have to take a moment and address the issue … My mind as Minister for Immigration is to address this issue at the fundamental level and try to fix it to make sure it doesn’t happen again going forward,” Wheatley said.
Premier Andrew Fahie’s two-week regularisation initiative fast tracks the process of qualified persons — who have been living in the territory for 15 years or more — becoming a Belonger or permanent resident.
All deadlines for qualified individuals to capitalise on this initiative end on May 31.
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