St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The government of St. Kitts and Nevis feels it is time to revisit its immigration policies in light of emerging migration patterns which have seen an influx of non-Caricom nationals to the country.
Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr. Timothy Harris at a recent regional press briefing:
“We had to take account of certain evolving realities which would have occurred subsequent to the original determination of our immigration laws which provide the legal framework by which entry and exit to the federation would take place.
“We believe that we need to do a revisiting of the immigration policies that address these new realities in a more comprehensive way, and yet at the same time we do believe that it is in the national interest of every country to protect its borders. We need to look at issues now within our member states; we have a large influx of persons from the Dominican Republic and it is not part of the Caricom makeup- it’s part of the broader Cari-forum, and so we still need to address that reality.
Prime Minister Harris, who has responsibility for Immigration, said while foreign nationals are welcome, it presents some challenge in terms of their integration and other issues.
“When they come, there are usually other things and other people that come with them, family and friends and therefore how do you fashion an immigration policy that deals with these realities.
The large influx, for example, of persons from the DR, while it is welcomed for the diversity and other attributes that come with that, has implication for education and learning. How do you take the child whose natural language is Spanish, put him in an English environment without the necessary support system?”
Dr. Harris said his government has already indicated its desire to begin immigration policy talks with the Dominican Republic.
“We have already signaled for example to the government of the Dominican Republic that this is an area in which we need to have consultation and discussion, because the whole issue of reciprocity to some extent has to feature into what we will do when we open up our borders to countries other than those who are part of the Caricom family. What are our citizens in turn able to benefit or see as the leveling of the playing field in relation to that.
“So these are matters over time we intend to harness fruitful outcomes with those countries with which we engage in terms of our immigration policies.
“This will be a work in progress. As always we say in St. Kitts and Nevis, that the law is the law and the law has to be observed until it is changed and therefore while we want to welcome people we want to urge people who come in that they must abide with the terms of their entry. That is why we are having the discussion; because we want to maintain and respect the law and we want the law at the same time to be responsive to these things.”
PM Harris said once a policy is developed, it would help guide the government in any other legislative and administrative action that would have to be addressed.