Apart from the hundreds of Guyanese bound to be affected by the new immigration policy which the government in Barbados has introduced, there are also others who have lived in the sister state for many years mostly unaffected by prejudices.
They have also come to appreciate the new decision by the island’s government mainly as being in their own best interest.
Some of them now reside on the island since they qualified under the CARICOM Free Movement of Skilled Persons and others gained their status under the Owen Arthur administration. They were spoken to during a recent Stabroek News visit to Barbados.
One woman employed as a communications expert said that she has had absolutely no problems since she moved to Barbados.
“I was recruited from overseas by a regional organisation and even housing was arranged for me. Since I have been here Barbadians have been very good to me,” she said.
With reference to the new immigration policy which could be used as the yardstick for sending home many of her countrymen, the woman said she believes that there is need to regulate immigration and Barbados has the right to do this.
She noted too that while every country had the right to safeguard itself especially in this economic climate, how this is actually executed is another matter.
“I think that there are more humane ways of doing things. I fear that this will disrupt many lives and families,” she noted.
She was not optimistic that many people would be willing to come forward to undergo scrutiny for qualification under the new policy.
“There is nothing in it that safeguards employers who have been hiring illegals and one of the stipulations of the amnesty is that you must have a letter from your employer. Also there is a limit on the number of dependents that you will be guaranteed under it,” she emphasized and asked, “what are people to do? Send home some of their children or not declare some of their children? This is something I think they need to look at again.”
A man who has lived in Barbados for the last four years said during his time there he never really encountered any issues. However, he felt that some Guyanese were bent on crossing the law since they brought their old attitudes from home. He insisted that there was a particular group of Guyanese who involved themselves in corruption and paid for work permits.
“But to me the policy is a little harsh but there is nothing that Guyanese could now do to revert this. People are afraid and from what I am hearing many wouldn’t give in themselves and will live underground. Right now it’s a 50-50 chance and whether they will indeed grant this amnesty is left to be seen,” he said.
Hopelessness in Guyana
He emphasized that living and working in Barbados has removed that feeling of hopelessness which he always had in Guyana.
“We really have to put things in place. Guyanese are all scattered and would all love to return home but I have had no problems here and the only reason I am here is because I want a better life for my family. I love Guyana,” he maintained.
Another Guyanese qualified as a skilled CARICOM national living and working in Barbados said she has long learnt to ignore the stigma attached to Guyanese over the years and has thrived on the opportunities afforded her and which have not been possible in Guyana.
“Working in Barbados is challenging, the first thing Bajans would say is that you are not (from bout hey) so regardless of anything else that’s the first thing that is always uppermost in your mind. Then the constant scrutiny of your documents is annoying at times but since it is said that we Guyanese are known for our fake documents, you have to accept it,” she explained.
“I know a lot of people wonder why Guyanese even come here and I used to be the same before I came but as I mentioned before Barbados has opened some doors for me to live so much better than I used to in Guyana. I earn way more than I was earning there and I am also able to help my family at home and still have savings. So for that I guess I can learn to live with some negative attitudes at times, and the occasional anti-Guyanese statements made at work by my colleagues.”
She believes that the people of Barbados are supportive of their government’s move and say it is in their best interest. “I know a lot of Guyanese are apprehensive right now, they go to work with the constant fear that today may be the day they are picked up, some would hear of a friend or co-worker being picked up and refuse to leave for work but that cannot be done for long since they have their bills and so on to pay, so they have to take the chance every day or just decide to go back home, but many are saying back home to what. So it’s better to just live here illegally and face all the abuse than go home and face a not so bright future.”
Another Guyanese who asked that her name not be mentioned said her experience in moving to Barbados has been mostly good. She told this newspaper that dealing with the unfriendliness that sometimes come from Barbadians is something which she has learnt to live with.
“I am here legally, I have a good job and my intention here is to develop myself professionally and gain more income than I can hope to gain in Guyana. I love my country but the opportunities to achieve all the things I want in life are limited,” she emphasized.
“The fact so many people are willing to come to Barbados and live where people can be hostile to non-nationals, especially Guyanese, says a lot about the lack of opportunities in Guyana. This is multiplied when you look at the number of people willing to live here illegally with no rights. Many illegals face horrible conditions and live in fear yet they are willing to stay here and suffer through it so that they can support their families. Economic opportunities are limited, crime is rampant, social services are not adequate and life is so hard in Guyana that people are willing to be ill-treated in another man’s land.”
She disclosed too that on the other end of it there are some Barbadians who want non-nationals to continue living there illegally since they rent them small rooms for between BDS$150 to BDS$200 per week where they have to share bathrooms and kitchens with strangers. She said too that they hire them to do construction and domestic work and pay them as low as BDS$70 per day and never pay overtime for working late or Sundays and holidays.
Benefitting from having illegals
“So Bajans are benefitting from having the illegals here. Illegals try to stay under the radar and not get into trouble. You hardly read about them in the paper committing crimes so I believe it is a misconception that they have come to Barbados and are involved in crimes. There are a few bad eggs but most of them simply want to stay out of trouble and get on without being noticed,” she said.
She acknowledged however that the Government of Barbados had the right to implement any policy which it feels will help their people
“And make no mistake, Bajans are in support of this new policy. More than anything this new policy is one of the main reasons Thompson won the election. This is what the people have been looking for,” she insisted.
Another woman told Stabroek News that as a young qualified Guyanese living in Barbados it could be difficult hearing all the negative perceptions some people have about Guyanese and this she said extends to arenas such as supermarkets where some attendants become rude the minute they hear the familiar Guyanese accent.
“But this is not necessarily the attitude of the majority. Deciding to live in another man’s country is never an easy decision, but the fact that Guyanese legal and illegal are willing to do this says a lot. As a CARICOM skilled national the process was previously less cumbersome but it is a lot more lengthy and cumbersome especially at the immigration end after you have been accredited. The Barbados Accreditation Council‘s process is much more professional,” she said
On the matter of the illegal immigration issue, the same woman indicated that the Prime Minister of Barbados is doing what he believes is in the best interest of Barbadians and “it is as simple as that.”