As word of the Ministry of Labour and Immigration’ declaration that all ex-pats living in the Territory who have fallen on COVID 19 hard times need to leave the Territory commenced circulating within the Territory and the region, assurance has been given by Minister for the subject Hon. Vincent Wheatley that those who had to leave would be allowed to return when COVID subsides.
The announcement was made in the House of Assembly on 10 July. The Minister prefaced the statement by announcing that he was not happy to have to make the declaration. Further Hon. Wheatley acknowledged that a large percentage of persons residing in the BVI are natives of other countries and many have resided here for several years and made it their home. However, he stated that the COVID-19 Pandemic changed the Territory’s ability to open arms to receive anyone wanting to experience Natures Little Secrets. Hon. Wheatley said that this was a move aimed at saving the Territory from financial instability.
In giving assurance of a possible return, the Minister for Labour said that he intends to work diligently in keeping Government’s commitment to the Caribbean, mainland US, Europe, and other residents who have to leave at this time.
In explaining the facilitation of return to the Territory, Hon. Wheatley said, “After this time of transition and change has subsided, and we move into our transformation, we will give the necessary assistance to employers wishing to re-hire their loyal employees. We intend to do so by giving preference in the work permit process for these employees so that they may return to these beautiful Virgin Islands to re-establish their legitimate employment that was affected by the Pandemic, as smoothly as possible.”
Jobless to Leave Voluntarily
“I am aware that in a time like this many persons may be disheartened and frustrated by the decision to have them return to their home country, and though we are walking by faith and not by sight, the reality shows a future filled with bleak times for the world,” Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister, Vincent Wheatley, told the House of Assembly.
Hon. Wheatley said that the decision was made after it was observed that over the past three months the departments of Labour and Immigration have been facing an escalation in the number of persons who have been laid off or released because of COVID-19.
While noting that the provision has been made for ex-pat workers to find alternative employment he stated that some persons will have to leave. “Mr. Speaker, the reality is, some will not be able to find alternative jobs and without financial or family support will be required to leave the Territory.”
Hon. Wheatley explained that with a reducing job market the Government’s commitment under the Labour Code to ensure the legitimate employment interest of Virgin Islanders and Belongers is paramount. As such, the Minister asked persons being released from permanent employment, being unable to find alternative work and unable to obtain a Conditional Permit, to begin to make the necessary arrangements to return to their homeland or an approved receiving jurisdiction of their choosing.
Furthermore, the Minister asked persons who have to leave to register with the Immigration Department the particulars of their departure to allow for their exit to be properly recorded, thus assisting in a smooth re-entry when the opportunity presents itself.
Hon. Wheatley added that the COVID 19 situation created a harsh reality where persons are unable to sustain their living expenses. While emphasizing that this was a difficult decision: “It is not easy for us as a Government to see our brothers and sisters become unable to take care of themselves, as, unlike BV Islanders and Belongers who may be able to depend on a nearby family member, they may not have that luxury,” Hon. Wheatley said.