EDITORIAL: FACILITATING POPULATION GROWTH THROUGH A REVISED IMMIGRATION POLICY

anguillian
By anguillian August 7, 2017 11:50 Updated

 

 

 

 

Our annual Summer Festival usually attracts many persons to our shores resulting in an increase in economic activity for many businesses on island. This increased activity, resulting from increased numbers of persons on island, inevitably leads many persons to conclude that Anguilla needs a more progressive immigration policy. It is generally felt that a larger population would generate increased economic activity, thereby ensuring better prospects for new and developing businesses as well as long established businesses.

Current immigration policies and practices are seen as counter productive to achieving the population growth considered essential to achieving a desired level of economic activity. This issue is so topical that it was recently the subject of a debate between members of the New Young Progressive Debaters Club of the ALHCS. The young debaters demonstrated insight, beyond their years, in their examination of the national issues relevant to this subject and must be offered the highest commendations for their performance.

During the annual Summer Festival, we see a relaxation of the immigration practices which allows many of the residents of St Maarten/St. Martin to enter Anguilla and participate in our carnival festivities. Many persons wonder why this facility is not available to these persons throughout the year. This would encourage travel to Anguilla by residents of St Maarten/St. Martin, to experience our beaches and restaurants, and to support the budding new businesses, offering water-based and other activities for children and young adults. While the relaxation of the immigration rules at this time is very likely to be welcomed, our issues in relation to immigration run far deeper.

Changes and proposed changes in the belonger provisions of the Anguilla Constitutions reflect the views of policymakers over the past four decades. When one examines what has been reflected in the various Constitutional provisions, it appears safe to conclude that policymakers over the past forty years have not been desirous of increasing Anguilla’s population significantly through immigration.

According to the belonger provisions in the 1976 Constitution, a Commonwealth citizen who was domiciled in Anguilla and had been ordinarily resident in Anguilla for not less than seven years was regarded as a belonger of Anguilla. The belonger provisions in the 1976 Constitution also provided that the spouse, widow or widower of a person regarded as a belonger was regarded as a belonger of Anguilla. It must, however, be noted that in the case of a spouse, he or she could not be living apart from the other under a decree of a competent court or a deed of separation.

The 1976 Constitution was replaced by the 1982 Constitution. The belonger provisions in the 1982 Constitution addressed the issues raised in the preceding paragraph but, instead of maintaining or relaxing the requirements for belonger status, the 1982 provisions established more stringent requirements. These provisions allowed a Commonwealth citizen who was domiciled in Anguilla and had been ordinarily resident in Anguilla for not less than fifteen years to be regarded as a belonger of Anguilla. The 1982 provisions also established that the wife or widow of a person regarded as a belonger of Anguilla was also regarded as a belonger of Anguilla. Like the 1976 provisions, in the case of a wife she could not be living apart from her husband under a decree of a competent court or a deed of separation.

One notes that six years after 1976 the residence requirements required to become a belonger moved from seven (7) to fifteen (15) years. Further, whereas under the 1976 provisions a spouse, widow or widower of a belonger was also regarded as a belonger, the 1982 provisions only accorded this right to a wife or a widow and not to a husband or a widower. Have our policymakers been more concerned with limiting rather than increasing our population?

The 1982 belonger provisions were amended in 1990 and these amendments constitute the existing belonger provisions. Provision is now made for a person domiciled in Anguilla, who has been ordinarily resident in Anguilla for not less than fifteen years, and who has been granted belonger status by the Belonger Commission, to be regarded as a belonger. The spouse of a belonger is now regarded as a belonger if he/she has been married to that person for not less than five years; or if he/she has been married to a belonger for not less than three years, and has been granted belonger status by the Belonger Commission. The 1990 belonger provisions have, therefore, added the need to apply and be granted belonger status by the Belonger Commission in instances of residence and marriage and, in the case of marriage, the marriage must subsist for some years before a claim for belonger status can be made by virtue of marriage.

Anguilla’s recent Constitutional and Electoral Reform Exercise concluded with a report being presented to Executive Council with recommendations for the acquisition of Anguillian status rather than belonger status. The proposed provisions do not relax the areas referenced above. In fact, it is being proposed that there should no longer be the opportunity to acquire belonger status after marriage for three (3) years but, instead, belonger status should only be acquired after five years of marriage and the Anguilla Status Commission must grant such status.

Clearly, the previous and the existing belonger provisions have not been designed to encourage immigration. In 2017, some 41 years after the 1976 Constitution, what is the preferred policy position in terms of immigration? If we conclude that Anguilla will find it difficult to achieve its optimal population size with the existing belonger provisions or the proposed provisions for Anguillian Status, then we must persuade our policymakers that any new Constitutional provisions must reflect a national desire to facilitate increased immigration for Anguilla.

This issue, which is one that attracted the attention of our New Young and Progressive Debaters, must not be allowed to escape the attention of our policymakers.

anguillian
By anguillian August 7, 2017 11:50 Updated

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