Have no fear: St Kitts urges BVI to embrace expats

Prime Minister Timothy Harris addressing a gathering in the BVI

Prime Minister Timothy Harris addressing a gathering in the BVI

BY: BVI NEWS ONLINE ON OCTOBER 24, 2016 AT 9:02 AM :- During a visit to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on the weekend, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Timothy Harris decried the treatment being meted out to some Caribbean nationals in some countries across the region, adding that the countries that mete out such poor treatment should move beyond their ‘small minds’.

He did not specify any country when he made that comment.

But Prime Minister Harris lamented that, even in some of the countries, Caribbean people who are married to locals are given a hard time regarding employment.

“How true can we be to the idea that we are one people with one destiny; how true can it be when in some member states it is so difficult to get a job even if you get married to one of their citizens; they will not move… These then create a disconnect…” he said, adding that no country in the region has the resources to successfully compete on its own.

“All of us have our small little space; none of those spaces are sufficiently large vis-a-vis the decision makers. And that is why we are where we are at. Unity is still the key to our success – unity, hard work, [and] creativity are critical pillars on which we must build moving forward. That is what our history says to us; our present circumstance says to us, and that is what the future is beckoning – Caribbean people and small island people to move from the small mind…”

Prime Minister Harris bragged that successive governments of St Kitts and Nevis understand the importance of immigration and regional unity, adding that his country has remained true to the tenets of free movement within the regional bloc – CARICOM.

Immigrants help build BVI

In CARICOM, the BVI has opted to remain only an associate member, and so is not bound by the laws of the regional organization.

But Prime Minister Harris noted that the BVI, like other countries, is a migrant society – with people leaving and coming in search of a better life.

“I am sure that those who are the historians and economic historians – when they look over the growth and development of this country – if they were to minus the immigrant population – they would say that the BVI would not have reached where it would have reached so quickly and so beautifully over time,” added Prime Minister Harris, in response to various questions posed by radio host Cromwell Smith.

Smith, in his discussion with the visiting prime minister, noted the fear that locals in the BVI would be left jobless if imported labour is not controlled, considering the relatively small size of the BVI.

But Prime Minister Harris reasoned that the BVI has nothing to fear if its people are properly qualified and prepared.

“Our education system and our leaders should prepare our citizens to become citizens of the world; that the small space which we inhabit is not the only space available to us and therefore we can’t take a parochial view.”

“When employers in BVI businesses are looking for workers, they want the best possible workers – that is in their interest… Whether or not that person is from the BVI, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis – it shouldn’t matter to the business entity, because ultimately that is where the progress is going to come from.”

Prime Minister Harris thinks, if locals are suitably prepared, entrepreneurs would not readily overlook them for imported labour.

“They know you (the local job seeker); they know your family; and they are going to be predisposed one way or the other to give consideration to those that they know well versus those who are unknown quantities in their estimation. So, I would say that we shouldn’t fear it; we have that challenge in every society – within St Kitts and Nevis too, where people say that we have too many Jamaicans – at times Guyanese.”

Prime Minister Harris further suggested that, in relation to jobs, immigrants should not only be allowed to compete for jobs locals refuse.

“I am sure that, on balance, people would say that it can’t be that people would come just for the jobs that you {locals) don’t want. So you don’t want to be a cleaner; you don’t want to mow the lawns – so that is what you (immigrants) are welcomed to do. It must be that we are going to compete and we are going to compete effectively. And that is what the education system we hope will be able to do – to challenge our citizens so that they are prepared.”

Most immigrants are good

Prime Minister Harris, in the meantime, said most immigrants are positive contributors to development in various countries – even in the United States and Britain.

“It is a mixed bag. Some bring other qualities which we should frown on, but the vast majority of them are hardworking people come in search of a greener pasture – and sometimes that green pasture had been there for years and our own people refused to move until they see others who have come and have taken up the opportunity. That is a matter of the competition being allowed to work for national good,” he said.

The St Kitts and Nevis political leader then challenged immigrants to uphold the laws of their adopted countries.

“I want to take the broad view – encourage those who come to be disciplined – not to engage in lawlessness, to fulfill their rights in terms of paying taxes to the State and be model citizens,” he further said.

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