COALITION, , FOR, , A, , HUMANE, AMNESTY
THE “REAL” IMMIGRATION PROBLEM IN BARBADOS!
There are thousands of Barbadians, who, having travelled to the U.S.A, overstayed their time, and are now in the process of working on getting their “green cards”. With 6 or 7 years of residence in the U.S.A under their belts, these Bajans have evolved into ‘Bajan-Yankees’, and we would be appalled if the U.S government suddenly started deporting them.
Yet, that is precisely what our Government is doing to ‘Guyanese-Bajans’ and ‘Vincey-Bajans’ in our midst! Our Immigration officers are raiding the homes and work-places of Guyanese and Vincentians who have been living in Barbados for 7 and 8 years, arresting them and putting them on the first flight out of Barbados. And several of these persons are the parents of children born in Barbados, and the owners of bank accounts and other forms of property in Barbados!
Most ordinary Barbadians are not aware that this is happening. Indeed, the Barbadian people have been so misled, that they believe that our Government has given all undocumented or ‘illegal’ Caribbean residents a six month period of time within which to go into the Immigration Department and regularize their immigration status. This is simply not true!
Admittedly, the Barbados government has advised undocumented’ Caribbean migrants that they are required to go into the Immigration Department between 1st June and 1st December 2009, but, they have warned that the only people who have a chance of being accepted are those who came to Barbados before the 1st of January 1998 – almost 12 years ago. All of the others will therefore be subjected to the very real likelihood of deportation! And the Immigration Department has not waited until the 1st of December 2009 to start deporting people! Indeed, they have already commenced a heartless campaign of arrest and deportation.
THE OLD FIVE YEAR AMNESTY
This inhumane approach to our Caribbean brothers and sisters may be contrasted with the progressive and constructive policy that was pursued by the previous Administration.
The previous government had a policy under which undocumented or ‘illegal’ CARICOM migrants who had resided in Barbados for 5 or more years, were permitted to come forward and apply for Immigrant Status. And once they were able to demonstrate to the Immigration authorities that they were gainfully employed, had no criminal record, and were likely to make a constructive contribution to our society, they were accepted.
Furthermore, if they failed to convince the Immigration Department and were rejected, they were given a right of appeal to an “Immigration Review Committee” chaired by a Minister of Government. If they failed to convince this Committee, they would then be ordered to leave Barbados.
This was a good policy, because it came to the rescue of persons who had become ‘Barbadianised’, and had become part of Barbadian society. Deporting such persons simply did not help anybody, and a wise Barbados government acknowledged this.
Barbados has never had a problem with this “five year amnesty” policy! Indeed, it was a good and humane policy and should be reinstated!
THE NEW SITUATION
The ‘real’ problem with the immigration situation in Barbados is that the traditional and long-standing exchange of migrants between Barbados and Guyana evolved into a ‘migrant labour phenomenon’ over the past decade, but the government of Barbados failed to acknowledge this new development, and therefore also failed to establish a formal ‘migrant labour programme’ with appropriate controls and administrative structures.
The reality is that the Barbadian economy and society has evolved in such a manner that the present generation of native Barbadians is no longer attracted to the physically taxing and repetitive labour of the agricultural, manual and low level service jobs that their parents and grand-parents were prepared to do!
Over the past decade or so therefore, the Barbadian economy has come to rely on imported Guyanese workers to perform essential but unwanted jobs in agriculture, construction, care of the elderly, and a range of low level services. This has helped Barbados to maintain strength and efficiency in these vital areas of its economy, and this, in turn, contributed to the maintenance of an overall strong economy in which the unemployment rate dropped to the historically low level of 6 per cent. In other words, the presence of Guyanese migrant workers in Barbados has not caused the unemployment of native Barbadians!
The belief that the quantity of employment available in Barbados is of a fixed nature and that migrant workers from Guyana simply take the jobs of existing Barbadian workers, is absolutely wrong! The fact is that the Barbadian economy has expanded along with the growth in the labour force! Indeed, our economy would be smaller, with lower per capita income, without our imported Guyanese, Vincentian and St Lucian labour!
However, rather than allowing needed migrant workers from Guyana to come to Barbados in an ad hoc manner, we need to put a formal ‘migrant labour programme’ in place, and run it properly! This is what our new government should be doing – not running down and deporting 5, 6, 7 and 8 year residents of Barbados!
Our government is inflicting unnecessary damage on both the image and the economy of Barbados, with their inhumane and myopic immigration policy. Our organisation – the “Coalition For A Humane Amnesty“- therefore asks all Barbadians to join with us in insisting upon a reinstatement of the ‘five year amnesty’ policy, and the establishment of a formal, structured ‘migrant labour programme’ for guest workers from the CARICOM sub-region.
If you are interested in our campaign, please contact us at the Clement Payne Centre, Crumpton Street, Bridgetown, Barbados (Tel 246 435 2334;