Gov’t to expand net for citizenship qualification

Legislation to allow more categories of people to attain Barbadian citizenship is to go before Parliament soon, Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams disclosed on Thursday as he called for discussion on a regional migration policy.

He said the new laws will also seek to streamline processes associated with immigration policies.

“The new Immigration and Citizenship Acts, which are both advanced in preparation, will regularise the status of persons already in the island while expanding the net of persons who qualify for status and citizenship. These Acts will also address irregularities and perceived barriers which have been identified and seek to make the application process a lot simpler,” he announced.

“Along with citizenship, we will be taking the opportunity to examine the policies and measures relating to immigrant status, permanent residence, student visas, payment modalities, all with a view of simplifying processes and reducing processing times…. Through these improvements, Barbados is frontally recognising the intrinsic link between migration and economic policy.”

Abrahams was speaking at the opening of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) workshop, Towards the Development of a Regional Migration Strategy and Policy, at Radisson Aquatica Resort on Thursday.

Delivering her Budget in March this year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that a major overhaul of the country’s immigration policy would be coming in a matter of months, as she said that Barbados needed to fix its “population issues”.

She said then that a recent study had indicated that unless the situation was addressed, the island’s workforce would be smaller in 12 years than it is now.

Speaking at Thursday’s workshop, Minister Abrahams contended that issues surrounding migration were of regional concern.

He contended that migration policies within the region were not fit for purpose, and have inevitably led to some underdeveloped economies within select nations.

“We have a reality in CARICOM that we must face. We have a number of underpopulated and therefore under-resourced countries. In 2021, the Republic of Suriname, the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Belize, Bahamas, and Dominica were recorded as being the least densely populated countries in this region. Conversely, Barbados has been identified as the most densely populated country in the region,” Abrahams said.

“So, any discussion on managed migration must attend to the matter of supporting each other’s developmental priorities and realising the full potential of CSME [CARICOM Single Market and Economy]. A frank discussion on how managed migration can support those economies whose growth rate is exponential must be held in this region. No one should be left behind.”

Director of CARICOM IMPACS, Tonya Ayow, acknowledged that creating a new regional migration strategy and policy would not be an easy task.

However, he said, it was a necessary step for improving economic development and security strategy on this side of the hemisphere.

“It will require a multisectoral approach – one in which we may sometimes clash and we will have friction, but at the end of the day recognising that the goal is to strengthen our regional efforts to create policies for safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration.” (SB)

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