Hon. Myron Walwyn, Education and Culture Minister
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
Minister of Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn took time to address a passage from a report formulated by UNICEF, that speaks to the rights and status of children of expats, who were born in the BVI.
During his wrap up in the House of Assembly last evening, April 20, the Minister expressed to the House that what was noted by the body, that is powered by the United Nations, is a terrible indictment to the residents of the Territory.
Reading verbatim from the document that was laid in the House sometime earlier by the Minister of Health, Hon. Ronnie Skelton, under subsection Civil and Politics Rights, the report states, “One of the most significant gaps in the protection of human rights affects migrant children and those born in the BVI of non BVI parents. The rules of citizenship and Belonger status are complex and difficult to understand, and there is some level of discretion in the decision in granting or not granting the status of Belongership. As clearly stated on the BVI immigration website, if a child is born in the BVI and their parents are not citizens or Belongers, they are required to apply in writing to the Immigration Department for permission for the child to reside. The immigration laws do not automatically grant any rights to such persons born in the Territory. Citizenship status is governed by the British Nationality Act…”
He highlighted the troubling part of the passage as the section that reads, “Children born in the BVI of non BVI parents are mainly considered as temporary migrants, face restrictions in the enjoyment of their rights and can be stateless if they cannot obtain the citizenship of the country of the origin of their parents.”
Irate, Hon. Walwyn said, “This is a terrible indictment on the fabric of society in the Virgin Islands and we have to do something about it.”
Mentioning the Territory conducting a constitutional review, the Minister said it is imperative that this matter takes precedence in the proceedings.
“I'm going to put a spanner in the wheel; deal with this first. You cannot move a country forward with half of your population behind. It cannot happen and it is time that all of us in this Honourable House take our responsibility seriously and address this issue.”
The Minister noted that he will tackle the issue alone if he has to, as it needs to be addressed urgently.
“Nation building isn’t about concrete; nation building is about people and you cannot build a country with a significant portion of your population uncared for, unrepresented and are deemed as stateless.”
The matter gained the attention of the Premier, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, who expressed that it is a matter that must be dealt with.
He disclosed that there are provisions and other pieces of legislation the government must peruse at this point, to decide how to move forward in efforts of rectifying the matter.
“I think this is something that should concern us all, because when we are building a nation, we are building a people”