BVI, Caribbeanand International News

No progress! Governor concerned over hundreds of pending Belongership applications

No progress! Governor concerned over hundreds of pending Belongership applications

Governor John Rankin expressed disappointment at the glaring lack of progress in governance reforms over the last few months, particularly in relation to the issuance of residency and Belongership status in the territory.
The sloth in moving this matter forward was among several disappointments the governor alluded to in his latest progress report on governance reforms agreed between the coalition Government of National Unity (GNU) and the United Kingdom (UK).

The governor shared that, although he was encouraged by some of the progress made, including a move towards more open and transparent public procurement, more work was left to be done.

“I am concerned that the overall pace of reform is slower than expected and it is important that the public do not lose confidence. It is essential that together we step up our efforts to achieve these important and urgent reforms; committing resources accordingly,” Governor Rankin said in a statement issued yesterday, February 13.

Key concern

In the meantime, the governor pointed out in his second quarterly review since the start of reforms, that the issue of residency and Belongership was a key concern of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), particularly given the open and unchecked discretion held by Cabinet to make such grants previously.

According to Governor Rankin, in the framework document for implementation of the recommendations of the COI report, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley and his government recommitted to applying a revised policy in line with the law.

The BVI government previously applied a policy which was deemed unlawful by the COI that required 20 years of residency before an application for Belongership could be lodged.

However, in the Framework Document which the GNU agreed to, it was stated that “Cabinet commits to follow existing legislation on residency threshold (minimum of 10 years) pending completion of the review under Recommendation B33”, with a deadline of June 1, 2022.

Over 1,000 applications pending

That deadline has since lapsed by more than six months and Governor Rankin shared statistics that showed that applications for both residency and Belongership have only increased by a great degree since that time.

“According to statistics provided by the Department for Immigration, 1,102 applications for residency and Belongership have been made since 1st June 2022, after the Government of National Unity was established,” the governor said in his review. “From the information available to me, it would however appear that there has been little if any progress in dealing with these applications.”

The governor contrasted this and showed that, at the time of writing his review, there had just been fifty-three prior applications for Belongership and forty-three for residency awaiting Cabinet decision.

Regarding steps he has taken to address the matter, Governor Rankin said he has sought assurance from the government that it will make this issue a priority.

“I have written to the Premier to seek assurance that capacity constraints within the Immigration Department in dealing with residency and Belongership applications will be addressed swiftly in line with the Government’s Framework Document commitment to prioritise and allocate resources as part of its full commitment to reform.”

In the meantime, Governor Rankin noted that a reviewer (Kedrick Malone) has since been identified to “lead a review of the existing policy and processes for granting residency and Belongership status, including the open discretion of Cabinet to grant such statuses and the length of residence required for Belongership, among other things”.

Governor Rankin said he recognised the sensitivities and public interest in this review and said the proposed date for completion has now been shifted to October 2023.

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