During the meeting, a resident noted that there is a requirement in the Labour Code for an annual review of the comprehensive policy on international migration into the BVI. That same resident then queried when the last review was done and asked, ‘based on an assumption that the stakeholders’ meeting would lead to a review of the Labour policies, when a report would be completed and laid before the House of Assembly?’.
Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley then promptly said the Labour Department is “working on the report”. He then directed the resident’s query to McLean for further elaboration.
“A report on international migration? That is what the person is asking there?” McLean responded.
“We are not currently working on any report on international migration, we work on different types of reports. I think we first have to do some type of assessment as it pertains to the workforce in itself,” she added.
According to the Labour Commissioner, the Labour Department only has information based on work permit holders but would need a complete assessment of the entire workforce which includes BVIslanders and Belongers before it can embark on further reports regarding migration.
According to Section 178 (1) of the BVI’s 2010 Labour Code: “The minister shall cause to be prepared, and reviewed annually, a comprehensive policy on international migration for employment that is based on the economic and social needs of the Virgin Islands and takes into account the short-term need of human resources; the short-term availability of human resources in the Virgin Islands; and the long-term social and economic consequences of migration for Virgin Islanders, Belongers and migrant employees.”
It further states: “The minister shall submit the policy prepared under subsection (1), and each revision, to the Cabinet for its approval and the approved policy shall be laid before the House of Assembly as soon as practicable.”
Meanwhile, Chief Immigration Officer Ian Penn when called upon for a comment on the issue, shared that a report on migration for the territory was important, but said he was not involved in giving any advice or information for any such report.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Joseph Smith Abbott, then commented that the issue of a migration review was something that required a very serious look.
“Perhaps this is something for serious consideration in terms of looking comprehensively at workforce development and Labour needs in the context of migration as well,” Smith Abbot said.
Penn interjected to advise, however, that the BVI’s new border management system is equipped to collect data on the migration of workers into the territory and said this can be used to come up with decisions for a given period.
Officials did not indicate during the stakeholders’ meeting whether a policy had ever been issued or reviewed as was mandated by the Labour Code.