The woman’s departure was prompted by the Immigration department’s policy that mandates that expatriates to leave the territory when transitioning between work permits.
However, in light of the circumstances, considerate officials at the Immigration department were able to facilitate a quick re-entry process that saw the woman reuniting with her baby.
The recent incident was brought to light by host of “Honestly Speaking” Mr Claude O. Skelton Cline who openly called on indigenous Virgin Islanders to treat the expatriate community better.
“Here’s this woman she is leaving the country, she has a six-month-old baby, gets to the airport and then they tell her the baby can’t leave, but she has to go. I mean, can you imagine that? A six-month-old baby! “You mean to tell me there is no discretion? There is no occasion for us to extend some kindness, some courtesy, and assist people? The woman then had to leave the baby, go out the country and then having a heck of a time getting back in because things aren’t being done.”
“This whole matter of having persons leaving the country needs to be suspended. That is a policy it is not the law; it’s a policy, and I’m calling on Minister Hon. Wheatley and the head of Immigration … some direction needs to be given. We as indigenous Virgin Islanders, those of us who are deemed to belong, I want to warn us, I want to caution us about the way we are treating people amongst us, the clergyman added.
In an invited comment by our newsroom, Skelton Cline reiterated the need for reform.
“The policy should be at the very least, placed on hold, given the current context and challenges that people are having financially and with mobility due to some countries being closed or under tight visiting protocols due to this pandemic.”
Skelton Cline also stated that the Chief Immigration Officer has discretionary power which should be applied to cases like these.
Since the airing of this story which attracted much public contention, our newsroom, in speaking to the Minister of Immigration, Labor and Natural Resources, Honorable Vincent Wheatley, was able to confirm that review of the current policy to have expats exit between permits is under review.
“We are considering changing this policy and have been for some time now. This policy cannot be dealt with in isolation, it was put in place for particular reasons.”
When questioned on the recent incident, the Minister revealed that he was not aware of the issue.
Just recently at the opening ceremony for the Omar Wallace Hodge Fisherman’s Wharf and Park, Premier of the Virgin Islands, Honorable Andrew A. Fahie recounted a story that spoke to the character and compassion of the late Omar Hodge, a story that much resembles the recent incident.
“I remember one time with Honorable Hodge… He came and said drive with me. Next thing I know we were at the airport. There was a lady being deported. She was here for 21 years and she got a baby but she didn’t have her paper work, in terms of being fully regularized. But the baby was born here and they (immigration) decided that they were going to deport her still but the baby can’t go.
Omar went and he didn’t argue with them. He took up the baby, told me to hold the cradle and say let’s go. I said where we going, he said just keep driving. We reached by the Administration complex and he said take out the child and let’s go. We went up to the then Chief Minister’s office. When we reach to the office he said tell the Chief Minister, which was R.T. O’Neal, Omar Wallace Hodge is here to see him. We waited a while, and he didn’t come out, he sent his secretary to find out what it is since he’s busy. Omar said to tell him he wants the lady not to be deported. Reverse it!
Ralph send out to tell him, there’s nothing we could do. Omar said no problem. He said put the child down on the secretary desk. He turned and told the secretary, tell the Chief Minister don’t worry. Since his mother is going and she wasn’t properly dealt with, he (Chief Minister) and his wife could raise the child until the mother gets back.
I was there in amazement and he yell out and tell me boy let’s go. And we left the child there. But when we got to the elevator I remember the secretary running coming. And she said come, come, the chief minister said he called the airport. The lady aint going again and come for this child, the child needs changing too.
We took up the child and was able to carry the child to the mother”
The BVI is home to over 100 nationalities, with expatriates making up the majority of the population.
As the push for immigration reform continues, many are of the opinion that policies such as this, that requires a resident to leave the territory while a new permit is being processed, should be reformed in a manner that is more amicable for all residents in the territory.
NB: Stock picture used of mother and child to protect identity