(BVI NEWS) — Describing it as a ‘vexing issue’ in need of urgent attention, Premier Andrew Fahie has pledged to regularise expatriates who are eligible to benefit from residency status in the British Virgin Islands.
“There are people here who have lived and worked successfully for 15 and 20 years and more who have met every criterion for residency but whose application has stuck somewhere for no obvious reason,” the Premier said.
He said the issue affects ‘thousands of people’ who he described as persons who are made to ‘live in the shadows’.
Fahie further said priority is being placed on the issue because the local economy can only ne repaired if ‘people must come first’.
“It is both an urgent economic and moral issue. Their (expatriates) children are also suffering, severely limiting their opportunity for growth and limiting our ability to access their human resource potential,” he added.
“In short order, we shall consider having such friends, brothers and sisters with no police record or with no security concerns regularised through an amnesty.”
Issue breeds underclass, discourages local investment
In the meantime, Premier Fahie said the matter is negatively impacting the wider territory as well.
“By denying such persons’ residency, we are investing in an underclass which is a detriment to the society,” he explained. “These people are our neighbours and our friends, the people we worship with, who we fall in love with, the brothers who we play ball with, the mothers who work in the service industry, the men who build our infrastructure, the many who help us maintain our way of life, live and work here.”
He said because of the lack of status, the territory does not benefit from the cadre of potential expatriate investors that is available. They ‘send all their money back to their country of origin,’ he explained.
Special committee to be established
He said a committee is being established to tackle the matter.
“I will not be charged by God for not doing what He sent me to do for we believe such a policy is better for our economy and our society. And, it will significantly assist in cementing unity,” he stated.
During their campaign, the Fahie-led Virgin Islands Party said if given a chance, the party would foster an environment where expats will feel more comfortable to save and invest in the country.