The brewing issue of the deportation of non-nationals from Nevis was addressed By Premier Hon. Joseph Parry on Tuesday when he said the Immigration Department was simply “doing its job”. There have been widespread reports of Guyanese nationals and members of the Spanish community residing in Nevis being targeted for deportation following the January 25th general elections. Some of the alleged targeted individuals had legally lived on the island for many years, had children born on Nevis and owned businesses and property there. According to informed sources, work permits and business licenses were being denied following which persons have been deported to their countries of origin. Reports of raids conducted By police and persons from the island’s Department of Labour tell of non-nationals being stopped at any place and time and asked to provide proof of residency and work permits. Opposition Leader, Concerned Citizens Movement representative Hon. Mark Brantley has expressed “deep concern” about the issue and accused the incumbent Nevis Reformation Party of using deportation as a means of victimizing non-nationals who they perceived may have voted against them during the recent general election. “This is unusual; this is unprecedented, where they are using the refusal and denial of work permits, extensions of stay in the country, business licenses and immigration status as means to pressure Guyanese, Spanish and anyone else they deem to be unsupportive of the NRP. I am being told By NRP activists that non-nationals voted CCM and so they have to go; all of them have to leave the island. I want to know on what basis do they know who anybody voted for,” Brantley said. Parry denied the claims insisting that deportation of non-nationals was a routine occurrence targeting individuals who were residing on Nevis illegally. “I would hope that some non-nationals who are working here… I would hope that some of them voted for us and some of them voted for the other side. I mean I don’t expect that all would vote for us. Little Nevis can only take so many persons. It reaches a point where things become impossible. Let me state first of all that whatever took place on Friday last week is something that is an ongoing process going on for years. There are people here who are here illegally; there are people who don’t have work permits; we are in the middle of a recession, it has not been easy for anybody here and the police and Immigration are doing their work,” he said. “It’s not a matter of little Nevis or big Nevis; it is something that is happening throughout the Caribbean right now that as times become more and more difficult, as people come here illegally, the police and Immigration will remove them from time to time.” Brantley contends that work permits and stays in the country were being denied without any reason given and people were being terminated from government jobs then told they had to leave due to the change in their work status. “Premier Parry said in Cotton Ground that the Guyanese must “fall in line”, that he is not begging any of them to vote for him because he is from Nevis. The reality is that we have given Commonwealth nationals the right to vote after one year of living in the country and you cannot give a man the right to vote and then seek to victimize him because of how you perceive he has voted. It is wrong! This government is wrong for victimizing poor people and it has to stop.” Parry maintains that those non-nationals being deported were people who were “here illegally or people who do not have work permits” and such persons were causing strain on scarce national resources. “I must state here and now that the government has stated quite publicly and openly that we are not issuing any new work permits and that is enough information for us to accept here that if people come for a holiday when their time is up they have to return to their country otherwise we will have to encourage them to go back because we cannot afford the pressure that the country is under at this particular time. “Some of our schools are under pressure; we are running out of classrooms, we have been forced to build bigger classrooms and that costs money in difficult times. Our social services are under threat and stress and only this morning I learned that certain persons are going to the hospital to get medicine who should not have had access to the medicine, but the system as it is may be a little lax and so people are draining the supplies of the hospital. That means an extra cost to the government or that somebody will not be benefitting from things like those. So it is best to ensure that we in Nevis are not overloaded to the point where we have a breakdown.” The Premier also said that illegal immigrants were contributing to crime on the island since their status did not allow for them to legally obtain jobs. “It’s only recently that I’ve heard about credit card scams that are taking place on the island, break ins – all these things happen when you have a situation like this because people have to live.” Parry also said that deportation of illegal immigrants was not indigenous to Nevis, but an international occurrence. “I would hope that people would understand that what is happening in Nevis at this time is not unusual, it’s happening in Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, quite a number of islands and it’s a matter that you can only take so many persons on the island. It’s not Nevis alone; it’s not the Caribbean alone. There is no country that allows people to stay infinitum or illegally in their country. Some of the persons who come into the country the Immigration know who they are, where they are, the Immigration has some of their documents and Immigration does its work,” he said. Brantley however, said he is fearful of the message being sent throughout the region and beyond as it related to the way non-nationals were being treated in Nevis, as some countries may adopt a ‘retaliatory’ attitude toward Nevisians in their respective countries. “We in this island must be careful. Let us desist from victimizing our Caribbean brothers and sisters. I wonder sometimes if they were to return the favor what would happen. If St. Martin tomorrow decided that all Nevisians had to go- Anguilla, USVI, Puerto Rico, Barbados- if they were to decide tomorrow if that’s the way you’re treating other people, all of you are gonna be sent home, I know there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. We should not do unto others what we do not wish them to do onto us. Let us treat people fairly and do honor to the name of Nevis, not dishonor.” Prime Minister Dr. Douglas also recently weighed in on the issue of deportation of non-nationals saying the process was the responsibility of the Ministry of National Security which handles immigration matters. He said it was policy to try to assist non-nationals with children born in the country to legalize their status as opposed to deportation however persons committing criminal offences “we would want to get them out of here”.
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