BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The Barbados Government has defended allegations that the island does not welcome citizens from other Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries insisting that it had deported a “very small percentage” of people.
“We hear very often about the number of people we deport from this country because they have overstayed their time. The numbers may sound high when you look at them by themselves,” said Darcy Boyce, who has responsibility for Immigration.
He told the Senate that before the approved Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2014, in 2013 Barbados deported 176 people.
“However, we had 1.4 million arrivals that year. So that the number that we deported was actually a very, very small percentage, less than one per cent,” he told legislators.
But opposition legislator, Wilfred Abrahams, said the island had acquired a reputation for being “anti-foreigner”.
Abrahams, an attorney, said that there was a widespread feeling in the region that Barbados did not value other Caricom nationals.
“We in Barbados have gotten a reputation of (being) [anti-Caricom],” he told the Senate, adding “the Jamaicans think we are anti-Jamaican; the Guyanese think we are anti-Guyanese; the Trinidadians think we are anti-Trinidadian.
“Across the Caribbean, there is a feeling that Barbadians are anti-foreigners,” Abrahams said, reminding legislators that most of the emerging economies of the world were built on migrant labour.
“In the 1960s and the 1970s thousands of Barbadians migrated to the United Kingdom to become nurses to work with the London Transport Authority. In the early 20th century, thousands of Barbadians migrated to Panama to work on the Panama Canal.
“Those people migrated and created a life for themselves in these countries. Most of them remitted money to Barbados and contributed to the economy. So we developed as a people because of our ability to go overseas and make something of ourselves.
“The point is that at that time Barbadians were begging for a chance. We migrated into other people’s countries and asked them to give us the jobs we want to do. Are we trying to deny others the same chance?” Abrahams asked, indicating that he could not support the “ad hoc” amendment to the legislation.
But Darcy said that figure show that only one in every 1,000 people was prevented from entering the island.
“I have to say that because people have this impression that the Immigration Department is there looking to round up Caricom people and sending them back out. We do not have the resources or the inclination to carry out such an operation.
“We benefit from the interaction of Caricom nationals in Barbados. Some of them fill very key jobs in our country; they enrich our culture,” he said, providing details regarding the decision to deny Guyanese and Jamaican nationals entry into Barbados.
“If you speak about the Guyanese, 55 of them were stopped in 2013 out of 16,600, once again less than half of one per cent. When you look at the case of the Jamaicans, 50 were not allowed to land out of 10,800 persons, once again less than half of one per cent.”
Boyce said he had to release those statistics because people had been attacking personnel of the Immigration Department who were doing their job.
He said the officers should not be seen as being anti-Caricom adding “when I am asked to review some of these matters, 99 out of 100 times I find no cause to reverse the decision made by the Immigration Department.
“In every case of deportation there is good reason for such action,” Darcy said.
Under the new legislation, a person who is guilty is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of BDS$5,000 (One BDS=US$0.50 cents) or to imprisonment for 12 months or to both; or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of BDS$25,000 or to imprisonment for five years or to both.