Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, Geoffrey Day of Josiah’s Bay on Tortola travelled to St Maarten on February 26 to restart the work permit process for a new job in the BVI.
“I had to leave by order of the Immigration Department due to the fact that I was changing jobs. So it was a new work permit, not a renewal. I expected it to take around 4 weeks, so I came over to St Maarten and waited for the permit to be processed,” Day told BVI News.
“Unfortunately, it was not long after that the coronavirus became an issue and the BVI closed the borders. Along with this, the government offices, including Labour were closed, therefore my permit process was put on hold. All understandable and I had no issues with that directive,” he added.
Following inquires about the status of his work permit, Day, who is a carpenter, was told the process would continue once the lockdown was lifted and the Labour Department reopened.
“I have been waiting all this time for news. My new employer has been in contact with the Labour Department numerous times. He was told that my permit was being processed. I have been patient and understand there was a backlog of permits etcetera to do so I haven’t complained up until now,” the skilled worker said.
“I keep checking the government website hoping for updates. Frankly, there is very little there and most of what I hear is either from friends there (in the BVI) or newspaper clips online. Every time my employer has been to check up on how my permit is going, it’s always the same answer; that it’s being processed, that it will be ready soon.”
The UK national said the recent announcement by the government has left him feeling somehow excluded from the reentry process, as there is no clear understanding of what measures can be taken by someone in his position.
Things are now worsening for the Josiah’s Bay resident who said he is now running low on money as he tries to survive in St Maarten while still paying bills on Tortola.
“I have one suitcase here with a couple of T-shirts and shorts. That’s it. Fortunately, I have friends here that have provided me with some very basic accommodation. An old office space that has a mattress on the floor. I’m paying them some money when I can get it every month,” he stated.
“I’ve used up my savings from what I brought here. I am struggling to get food every day now. My debts in the BVI are mounting with things like car insurance, rent — which I send what I can so my landlady can pay her mortgage — food for my pets, etcetera,” Day explained.
As for why he doesn’t return to the UK, Day said: “My home is there [in the BVI]. I still pay rent on my place, I have pets there, and all my possessions are there. All my tools that I work with are there. All my personal things like books and photos and musical equipment and clothes and my car and all my sentimental possessions.”
“I haven’t lived in the UK for 22 years. Apart from my family, I have no other reasons to be there. No job and because I have lived away so long, I am no longer eligible for any social security, health coverage, etcetera. It would be extremely expensive to get there and nothing is there for me,” he added.
Day is hoping a decision from the government will be forthcoming to bring relief to him and persons in similar situations so theya can return to the BVI.