by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The St Kitts and Nevis Government has imposed an amnesty period for immigrants to update their residential status.
All individuals who need to update their documents are encouraged to go to the Ministry of National Security, to ensure that matters are examined and resolved.
Prime Minister Drew made the announcement on the new immigration rules in a wide ranging sit down interview with local media on February 3.
‘We have started an amnesty period because after two years of COVID people had no work, the economy contracted significantly; and because we know that people didn’t have any work, jobs were closed down, even people who brought people here to work and would have done their permit and so forth, that they were not in a position to do it; so, we are saying, even the immigrant community, those who abided by the law up to that point when the circumstances were beyond their control, that we need to give them a fair chance; and the fair chance is to give them an amnesty period and to set up a payment plan in such a way that is no burden to them, so that they can get back into the workforce.”
The Prime Minister once again raised a recurring issue of fake marriages. Dr. Drew said a committee has been established to investigate over 1,000 possible fake marriages and expressed that the Government is not against immigrants, but they must function under the parameters of the law.
The St.Kitts- Nevis Labour party has always been open to immigration, but we want it to be done in a particular way, at the same time respect the laws and give people to come here, build their lives, have business, build their families, just like we go to other countries and do the same. However, I don’t think any country would accept a kittitian coming there to have a fake marriage to get their citizenship, would accept it if they know that. No country accepts that and so, while we are doing the amnesty and we’re compassionate because we should be, because we know people suffered; all of us suffered; but at the same time we cannot accept these allegations of fake marriages, especially when we are seeing very strong evidence of it, so we have put a committee together to look at that.”
Another immigration issue that the country faces each year is the influx of people, mostly Haitians, who try to enter the country illegally by sea. In most cases, the immigrants are intercepted, detained and returned to their country of origin.
Just recently, Friday evening February 3, 2023, the Royal St.Christopher & Nevis Police Force gave notice of an illegal entry case on the island of Nevis. Fifteen illegal immigrants, nationals of Haiti and Dominica were detained by the Police. The group consisted of adults and children.
The Police said a report was made that two males came off of a vessel at Gallows Bay and walked towards Bath Village; one, a Dominican and the other, a Haitian. The vessel was anchored off the shore of Gallows Bay, but the men made their way to shore using a dinghy. The men were found in Bath Village and escorted the police to the vessel in which the other illegal immigrants were aboard.
Meanwhile, The St.Kitts- Nevis Coast Guard, which is responsible for protecting the maritime interest of the country, will soon have a new 40 ft patrol boat added to its fleet, the Prime Minister disclosed. More patrols and the use of new and improved technology are expected.
In addition, a new Coast Guard Base is under construction. The Prime Minister said with the investments and improvement being undertaken for the Coast Guard, its members are also expected to perform their duties.
The duties include but are not limited to protecting and assisting customs and other national security bodies in anti-smuggling operations, maintaining its humanitarian responsibility of ensuring the safety of life and property at sea and enforcing immigration laws.