RESIDENCE & BELONGER STATUS MEETINGS “CONSTRUCTIVE”: PREMIER SAYS

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Since the announcement that the Clear Path to Regularization initiative has been temporarily halted was made last Thursday 23 May Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie disclosed that a number of meetings have been held and various ideas for immigration reform in general have been suggested.

In an interview with the media on 28 May the Premier pointed out that the government intends to confer Residence and Belonger status on persons who have lived and contributed to the Territory for 15 years or more. However, he said that the initiative would move forward after the views of concerned citizens have been attended to.

The legislation which had its first reading in the House of Assembly on 17 May, is returning for its second and third reading on 3 June. In the meantime, the Premier said that his government has continued to listen to the views and concerns on the matter of immigration.

The Premier said that a meeting will be held with the extensive membership of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) to discuss the regularization initiative and the proposed amendment to the Passport and Immigration Act. “We are having other meetings; we are even meeting with our congress of the Virgin Islands Party to hear their views. We are meeting with a lot of groups,” Hon. Fahie said.

Since public consultation begun the Premier said that he is pleased with some of the ideas that have been presented to him to ensure immigration reform: “We have had persons come with some good solutions, and we want to continue meeting with some of the different groups, though [with]some of those groups the meetings are not public. We have been having meetings almost every night to ensure that we get information, not just for the initial initiative, but also for the long-term in terms of what’s going to happen with Immigration reform, and eventually labour. We are making good strides. I really like the suggestions that are coming forward,” the Premier mentioned.

When the announcement was made some persons misconstrued that announcement of postponement and assumed that the initiative was cancelled. However, in clarifying the misunderstanding the Premier explained that the persons applying to be regularized were admonished to wait.

He said that other instructions – as it relates to applying for the status – would be given in the future: “Rather than having anyone submit anything right now just to be in a state of readiness. Allow us to finish these discussions to come up with what we feel is the best way forward for all concerned and then we will be able to say what we will be accepting when, where and how. We just hold it, so that we can hear all the views because that’s what a government is about: listening to the people. Then when we come forward we will be able to say what we’re doing not only with this initiative but with the whole immigration reform,” the Premier explained.

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