Photo Credit: FB/Premier Special Projects
The House of Assembly sitting that has been scheduled for June 3 would be the deciding date for whether or not the Clear Path to Regularization initiative would move forward. For now, expatriates who are in the Territory for 15 years or more were told to hold on.
When the House of Assembly meets, the second and third reading of the Passport and Immigration Act, which was previously deferred, is expected to take place. This amendment is essential for the regularization initiative, which seeks to confer Residence and Belonger status on residents living in the Territory for more than 15 years.
The reading of the Bill was stalled last week because of push back from indigenous Virgin Islanders, who disagree with the initiative.
Applications were originally scheduled to begin going into the Immigration Department from Monday, May 27, but Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie announced on May 23 that qualified persons should hold off on submitting.
He told the gathering in Virgin Gorda, “I have to hold until June 3 and see if the initiative gets through, because I only have one vote. Then we will be able to tell you before June 3 what are the decisions we have with the policy.”
“I can’t tell you what is going to happen, because we have to make amendments, which we promised the people. All I can say is make sure that you stay ready so that when it comes you don’t be rushing if you fall within those categories. What I can tell you that I heard tonight, that for sure we are doing, and the Minister of Immigration is already doing, is we are working on some policies to take to the public to discuss the way forward, with all of us discussing it so that it is clear,” the Premier stated.
Over the last week, the Premier and his Government have been receiving a lot of push back from indigenous Virgin Islanders, who disagree with the initiative for various reasons. Among the concern is that the programme was rushed.
It was this frequent comment about the initiative being hurried that prompted the Premier to declare, “You cannot lead by emotions...For me, most of what we are taking up is political because if I did it in the fourth year, you would have heard everyone say he looking votes. If I did it in the third year, you would have heard everyone say he know elections coming. If I do it in the second year, you would have heard well he starting to look ahead; and we did it in the first year you are hearing what’s the rush.”
Since the matter took center stage in the stream of public discussions, Thursday night was the first time the Premier placed a personal point on the matter. He did so by sharing that this move is about change, and noted instances in his family and his personal life where he had to be an agent for change.
“Let me tell you something about when you are turning around family — it harder than this you know! That is the kind of training the Lord allowed me to have to come and tackle some of these topics,” the Premier said after sharing personal experiences.
Since the announcement of the initiative on May 7, there has been a somewhat division in the position of expatriates and Belongers on the matter. At the center of the disagreement stands Hon. Fahie, who has had many negative and some positive comments made about him in relations to the initiative.
In finally sharing his personal feelings on the matter, the BVI Leader said, “I read a lot. I read the good and bad that they say about me. Sometimes I have to look in the mirror and smile. I have to look in the mirror to make sure it’s me because that’s not me.”
Hon. Fahie said that this initiative is one of many his Government intends to tackle for this term and he disclosed that he told his Government that he will take the blame, responsibility, and any fallout that may ensue.
“Not bragging or saying that this is the end for me, but after a certain time in your life, I am no longer afraid or have fear once you know you’re doing the right thing,” he said.
The Premier mentioned that he has heard some fiery comments from Virgin Islanders on the matter.
“Some of them feel that this man has let me down, he has destroyed my children’s future, and my children’s children future. Some persons have come and told me that. They say they could never forgive me for doing that. My answer to them is I already forgive you and I am not going to live a defeated life based on your words, but I’ll respect your opinion at the end of the day.”
The Premier stressed that there are requirements for the granting of status, and it is not just given out.