During a statement issued earlier today, June 18, Minister Wheatley said on the contrary to media reports on the matter, “I would like to make it abundantly clear that at no time did the Immigration Department give any instructions or demands that would have resulted in the separation of this individual from their infant child as has been widely broadcasted.”
He said while he is unable to share confidential information to this case, he will endeavour to give the facts of the case as it was relayed to him, so that clarity can be brought to the public.
He informed that in July 2020, the individual approached the Immigration Department after resigning from their employment due to the effects of the ongoing pandemic.
According to the Minister, the mother applied and was granted a conditional permit, during which time the mother or anyone granted such permit, would be required to regularize their employment status.
“However, the individual and the prospective employer were unable to meet a number of very important requirements of the Labour Code 2010 as stipulated by the Department of Labour and Workforce Development. This resulted in the denial of the work permit in late November of 2020, by which time, the issued Conditional Permit had lapsed,” he said.
He added, “The individual, after receiving information on the denial of the work permit had not presented herself to the Immigration Department until February 23, 2021, three months after the issued Conditional Permit had lapsed. During an interview held on that date, the individual was informed that they had been overstaying in the Territory, and the full ramifications for such an offense were shared. Subsequently, the individual was asked to surrender her travel documents, to which she complied. The individual was then asked to acquire a ticket to depart the Territory as she had surpassed the usually allotted time for any reasonable extensions to the Conditional Permit to be issued.”
Following this, the Chief Immigration Officer, Mr. Ian Penn had instructed that a further assessment be carried out, and this resulted in a further interview with the mother and the prospective employer to again assist with the matter, he said.
“This interview then highlighted the continued non-compliance with the Department of Labour and Workforce Developments requirements, which ultimately resulted in the decision to deny the work permit to remain. Therefore, it was agreed that the matter was beyond repair, and the individual was informed that they would have to depart the Territory, as it was clear that no further effort was made by the employer to rectify the matter,” Hon. Wheately stated.
Minister Wheatley said as a consequence, the mother received assistance with the necessary guidance to “regularize the infant child with the other parent as they were residing on a valid work permit. Minister Wheatley stated that assistance was also given to assist the individual in acquiring an emergency travel document for the infant child so that they may travel without issue.
He said the mother then returned to the Immigration Department in March 2021, informing the department that their homeland had issued a temporary ban.
“As all involved awaited the lifting of the ban, the individual received assistance from the Immigration Department and the Civil Registry & Passport Office in acquiring the necessary documents for the infant, as well as information on additional requirements for connecting destinations during their travels. On May 28, 2021, the individual presented an itinerary for departure and return to the BVI, at which time the passport was prepared and transferred to the Immigration Departments Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport offices to await departure. The individual departed the BVI on May 30, 2021, without the infant and returned on June 9, 2021, with a new clearance for employment with the previously proposed employer,” he stated.
He said he wanted to underscore that this mother received ‘exceptional consideration” by the Immigration Department and, “it would be remiss of me to not mention again that the separation of the infant from its parent was not the fault nor a directive of the Immigration Department, but rather a decision made by the parent when confronted with a choice related to their travel capabilities.”