(PLTM) - Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. Natalio Wheatley has set the stage for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policies in the Virgin Islands.
Premier Wheatley emphasized the significance of the Independent Reviewer's Report on Belongership and Residency, which has been released to the public.
He stated, "Today, we stand at a pivotal moment in the history of our beloved British Virgin Islands. It is a moment that holds the promise of shaping the very foundations of our society – the future of our immigration policies and the profound impact they have on our future," the Premier stated in an update in the House of Assembly.
The Independent Reviewer's recommendations, outlined in the report, were presented to the House of Assembly.
Premier Wheatley underscored the importance of this opportunity, stating, "An opportunity to shape the future of our beloved British Virgin Islands in a manner that is firmly grounded in respect for the law and recognition of the privilege granted to individuals who wish to make these beautiful Virgin Islands their home."
The Premier made it clear that the government's approach would prioritize transparency and inclusivity.
"We are guided by the principle that every voice matters, whether you are a resident or a belonger. Our commitment to your input is unwavering, and we will ensure that your perspectives are heard and valued in this process," the Premier stated.
The Independent Reviewer's report will serve as the foundation for the government's proposals and recommendations for legislative amendments and policy changes. Premier Wheatley acknowledged that these changes must reflect the evolving needs and aspirations of the BVI's people and address the challenges faced by the society.
In the weeks ahead, the government will embark on a comprehensive and inclusive consultative process, engaging with stakeholders from all sectors of the community. Premier Wheatley emphasized, "We will engage with stakeholders from all walks of life, from Belongers to Residents, seeking your insights, ideas, and feedback."
Premier Wheatley reaffirmed the government's commitment to the principles of justice, fairness, and inclusivity, stating, "This journey may have its challenges, but I am confident that, united as one people, we will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before."
As the BVI embarks on this transformative journey, Premier Wheatley's vision for immigration reform underscores the territory's commitment to preserving its heritage, strengthening its society, and remaining a welcoming and thriving community.
"Together, we will build a future that reflects the true spirit and values of our beloved territory. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the Virgin Islands," the Premier indicated.
The statement to the House also flows from a meeting the Premier attended with the members of the newly formed Board of Immigration.
New members of the Board of Immigration are Chairman, Troy Christopher; Board members Mrs. Shakira Skelton Leonard, Mrs. Michelle Todman-Smith, Ms. Avelinda Freeman, Ms. Michelle Frett-Mathavious, Ms. Kamika Forbes and reappointed members, Mrs. Rexella Hodge and Ms. Kimberly Seagojo. In attendance were Chief Immigration Officer Mr. Ian Penn who is an ex officio member of the Board; Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development Mr. Malvern Brathwaite; Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Mrs. Nadia Demming-Hodge and Secretary to the Board Mrs. Germain Cline.
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