A week is a long time in politics. Two weeks is an aeon, especially when public meetings are held after the event.

Over the weekend, the premier seems to have backtracked on fast-forwarding residence and belongership status for long-term residents in favour of clamping down on work permit abuse.

The latter is of course long overdue. But who are the culprits? Why, it’s the local unscrupulous employers who practise this illegal fraud.

 

Easier way?

In my humble opinion, the premier could have avoided all this upset about status for expatriate residents. If he really wants to sort this out, which is a good thing, instead of rushing through a complicated set of amendments (for which there may have been some ulterior motive), he could have done it much more easily. Why didn’t he just get together the minister in charge of immigration, the chief immigration officer, and his staff, and tell them to get on with their jobs? If someone meets all the requirements of residence and successfully completes the application, there is nothing to stop them being approved and granted status right away.

There are no limits on numbers that can be appointed at any time and no annual quotas. Hold-ups are purely due to civil servants’ and ministers’ personal whims as to whether they like or dislike any particular applicant. If there is good reason to refuse an application, then the applicant should be told right away, instead of wondering for years what has happened to their case. “Jobsworth” civil servants are a pain all over the world.

 

Concerns

Some Virgin Islanders, many of whom conceal their relationships with non-belongers, children born in the United States, and so on, seem to be worried that they will be overtaken in their own territory in terms of being able to vote and purchase land. That could be a worry, especially if Virgin Islanders go away for education and work and don’t come back.

But if a person has been here a long time and wants to settle their roots here, surely they would vote like anyone else for the candidates they consider will do best for the territory. If Virgin Islanders are worried that new belongers may vote “against” them out of spite for the way they have been treated in the past, then that is the Virgin Islanders’ fault, pure and simple. And who would they buy land from? Why, Virgin Islanders, of course!

As I said before, keeping expatriate workers on a string for years is tantamount to economic slavery, and many commenters seem to see nothing wrong in that. But it is history repeating itself 200 years later.


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