The regularization initiative is aimed at conferring Residence/Belonger status to persons who are of good character and have lived and worked in the Territory for 15 years and more, and was announced by the Premier on May 7, with the required legislative amendments scheduled for May 17.
However, since that time, a number of concerned Virgin Islanders have pushed back against the initiative. In fact, the Premier confirmed that he has received representation, heard complaints about the initiative verbally, and even via Whatsapp messaging.
The concerned citizens are now bringing their complaint to the public, and as of Tuesday, a petition commenced circulation.
The petition which is dated May 12, is addressed to the Premier and cited various parts of the Virgin Islands Party’s (VIP) manifesto, noting that at one section the party promised immigration reform that puts Virgin Islanders first.
The document admits that the party did note in its manifesto plans to regularize permanent residents. However, the petitioners noted that Virgin Islanders have been left out of the equation.
“While your government has started the regularization process, you have strategically left BVIslanders and Belongers out of the equation, and have failed to put us first in your priorities; and have begun this process without a comprehensive study on immigration or an immigration and labour reform as you have promised, nor have you consulted the people,” the petition stated.
During the launch of the initiative, the Premier explained that regularizing persons, who he said have lived and toiled in the BVI for close to two decades, is the right thing to do on various fronts, including moral and economical. However, the petitioners disagreed, stating, “There is nothing morally wrong or unconscionable about our concerns over your proposed regulation.”
Hon. Fahie had explained that persons, once regularized, will be more likely to invest in the Territory and work harder to build the BVI. The petitioners on the other hand said “…The Residency by Investment Act is not the most profitable.”
During a radio programme on May 14, a group of Virgin Islanders aired their concerns about the regularization initiative and urged fellow Virgin Islanders to call members of the House of Assembly and ask them not to vote for the amendment on Friday.
During the program, Angelle Cameron explained that she understands the basis of the initiative, but said, “I feel threatened about this.”
On the other hand, Cindy Rosan-Jones, who was a panelist on the program, stated that living in the BVI for a certain amount of years is not the only qualifier for Belonger status. “Because you have been here for 15 years does not give you the right or its on automatic...”
“I don’t really want to hear I have been here forever, so what. What have you done,” she added.
Meanwhile, Jamal Smith, who was also a panelist, questioned the legality of the regularization initiative.
Both Rosan-Jones and Smith implored citizens to make representation to elected officials as it relates to the amendment that will be made to the Passport and Immigration Act on Friday to facilitate the initiative.
Rosan-Jones said, “Call all your representative…pressure them not to do the vote in House on Friday. That’s what we need to do. We need to have this halted until we understand exactly how this would affect the BVI. We need this to stop, we need Premier to stop; we’re going to start a petition…We are going to pressure our reps.”
Smith stated that he will not vote for any legislator who supports the amendment.
“Anybody who is going to be supporting this come Friday is not going to receive an X from me period.”