Thousands of Caribbean non-nationals, among them many Guyanese, living in Barbados illegally have less than a month to start turning themselves into the Immigration Department, or they will be “removed” from December 1 this year.
Prime Minister David Thompson gave this official notice to undocumented Caribbean immigrants yesterday, bringing finality to Government’s pledge to address the contentious issue, since a Cabinet committee on immigration was formed in June last year.
Thompson told Parliament yesterday the new ruling had resulted from recommendations made by a subcommittee looking into the level of illegal immigration in Barbados, and these recommendations had now been approved by Cabinet.
He said the subcommittee had agreed that the current levels of illegal immigrants were “unacceptably high, increasingly difficult to control and posed potentially negative socio-economic challenges for the country”.
Therefore, with affect from June 1, 2009 all undocumented CARICOM nationals who entered Barbados prior to December 31, 2005 and remained undocumented for a period of eight years or more are required to “come forward and have their status regularised”.
Furthermore, an application for immigrant status together with all supporting documentation must be submitted to the Immigration Department on a prescribed form within six months of the commencement of the new policy – specifically before December 1, 2009.
Each case will be considered on its individual merit, said the Prime Minister, adding, “I must make it clear that after the qualifying period has expired, those CARICOM nationals without lawful permission to remain in the island will be removed”.
The Prime Minister said that although some non-nationals continued to make a contribution to the island’s development, the Cabinet committee had concluded that “the problem of illegal immigration can no longer be ignored”.
Thompson also said the conditions for regularisation would include:
• submission to immigration of an application for immigrant status together with all supporting documentation on the prescribed form before December 1
• the applicant’s ability to substantiate the claim that he or she has been residing in Barbados for at least eight years immediately prior to December 31, 2005 – specifically before January 1, 1998.
• the applicant must be currently employed and provide evidence of his or her employment status.
• the spouse or child of an employed applicant residing in Barbados with the applicant is eligible to apply under this new policy
• the applicant must pass through a security background check, and
• applicants with three or more dependents will be considered, but will not automatically qualify for status.
Thompson also reaffirmed the commitment of his Government to the regional integration process, particularly Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which provides for the movement of skilled CARICOM nationals within the CARICOM Single Market.
“These rights are enshrined in the Caribbean Community movement of Skilled Nationals Act which was passed by Parliament in 2004. It is my view that leaders in this region must work together to find solutions to the many vexing problems existing in our individual societies,” he stated.
He also said the effort to exercise greater control over immigration was heightened by the need to achieve an improved level of border security, the globalisation of terrorism, human trafficking, organised crime and drug trafficking; the need to honour regional, hemispheric and international commitments with regard to the movement of capital and people; and the need to address and remove inconsistencies in the legislative framework governing immigration.