Text of Broadcast by Minister of Home Affairs
on Conference held in The Virgin Islands
NON-CITIZENSHIP PRE- CLEARANCE'"
My dear people of Dominica, today is my first broadcast to you for the Year,
and I want to greet you with God Speed, especially to all the people whom I represent.
I am fully aware of my responsibility to my people, and you too, my people, know
full well that I will never let you down.
I am here to give you a report on the Virgin Islands Conference. First of all,
my dear people, the Government of the United States Virgin Islands invited the
ministers of all the Islands from Trinidad, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Grenada
right down to Tortola. We were all there with our advisers.
At the opening of the meeting His Excellency the Governor Melvin H. Evans
outlined the problems which are confronting them. He said the problem is so great
that he felt it was in the best interest of all, that we should meet together to find the
best solution to the problem. All the delegates were introduced to His Excellency.
He then left the meeting and the meeting continued.
The first speaker was the Honourable Phillip Gerard, Education Commissioner,
and in short, it was pointed out that the children of the Aliens there had to be omitted
from the schools, because there are more Alien children than their own, and they
must protect their children. Honourable David Mass, Government Secretary spoke
on the political aspects of the situation. Honourable Peter J. O'Dea, Attorney
General spoke on the legal aspects. Now, according to the Laws of the United
States, no person is allowed to enter the state without a visa and there are 16,000
persons residing in the Virgin Islands without a visa. The said constitute almost
40%/ of the population, and this created its own problem. Employment Security
Agency claimed that nearly all the Aliens had overstayed the stated time given to
them, and it was for the Government to decide what ought to be done.
A representative of the employers pointed out that most of the workers were
in jobs where they were needed and he saw no reason why their positions could not
be regularised and residence granted. This statement was endorsed by all the Over-
seas delegates and as the release we issued indicated the Government of the Virgin
Islands should approach this problem with understanding and compassion. Indeed
when mention was made of the fact that some workers may have to return as their
papers were not in order, we the Overseas delegates stressed that it was our view
that no single alien who was already in the Virgin Islands should be returned purely
because his papers were not in order.
I met many Dominicans who were concerned about their position and who
pleaded with me to persuade the Virgin Islands Government to grant them residence.
1 urged their case in the highest quarters and I discussed this also with the Chief
Immigration Officer. Many of the Dominicans who are already settled there felt
that it was a good thing that our people should be advised of the requirements before
coming. Some people have had to return their children home to Dominica to be
sent to school since school places are in very short supply.
The letter from the Governor of the Virgin Islands to us pointed out as follows
and I quote "As you are aware, I am sure, many non-residents come to the Virgin
Islands as visitors, then secure employment, a situation which has not been entirely
satisfactory." That is a statement from the Government of the Virgin Islands. To
say that this Government has taken steps to prevent Dominicans from going to St.
Thomas or St. Croix is completely untrue. This Government would not stand in
the way of anyone who wishes to go abroad. But as you know every country has
immigration and work permit laws. If therefore one decides to go to live in another
country or take up a job there, it is good to know what is required befor hand. If
you want to go to the United Kingdom or Canada you are advised of the requirements
for entry by the Labour Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs. What the Govern-
or of the Virgin Islands and his government asked the Overseas delegates to do is to
advise persons from the other territories including Dominica, of the requirements
for entry to the United States Virgin Islands. 1 cannot see how this can be taken to
mean that Government has stopped people going to St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Anyone who wants to go is free to do so, but is advised that it would be in his best
interest to come to the Labour Division (as he would if he were emigrating to Canada
or the United Kingdom) and be informed of the requirements. Many people have.
since the release, come to the Ministry to seek advice and the Labour Division is
available for advice on this. This gesture on the part of Government is intended to
protect our nationals who are going abroad, it is intended to give them the sort of
information that they need to avoid difficulties. The other territories are doing the
same. Would it be right for Government to have this information and withhold it
from those who can make use of it? I think not.
It is not the Government of Dominica, but the Government of the Virgin
Islands who decides the conditions for entry and who will be granted residence.
It is the Government of the Virgin Islands who require aliens to have followed
the correct procedure and all we do is to assist those who wish to go and
who wish to be informed as to the requirements, but we cannot tell you not to go.
For those of you who wish to go, the decision to go or not is yours. What we can
do is to assist you with information you may find useful.