According to the leader of the opposition, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, it is disheartening to see the approach the TCI is taking towards immigration.
“A few months ago in the House of Assembly we were told by the minister of border control that a draft bill was with the Attorney General’s Chambers. Since then the country has seen the minister announcing bits of new policies that he and his government intends to implement and now also having to defend its position regarding an alleged proposal from a private sector organisation,” the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) leader said.
PDM and opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson
Cartwright-Robinson, who is also the PDM shadow minister for immigration, acknowledged that, while the premier and his Cabinet are the leaders on policy design, she said there are rules that state that all major policy must be announced in the House of Assembly first and also that there must be a consultation with the people of the TCI.
“Over the past nine years, this country has been talking immigration reform and we believe that there must be some action in this area. The current minister was the chairman of the blue ribbon commission on immigration and subsequently the change manager. He is now the minister and the responsibility yet again falls on him to bring a law and policies to this country that we can dialogue on and agree,” she said.
According to Cartwright-Robinson, immigration is perhaps at the root of the majority of the problems that TC Islanders face and it requires a holistic approach. Recent announcements of intentions should be supported by numbers through the census and also futuristically by a population policy.
“Whilst we cannot wait on all the studies to be completed, the urgent need for a population policy and a national skills database cannot be ignored. A system can be designed to address the immediate needs,” she said.
Cartwright-Robinson continued that, contrary to what she said is being suggested, the constitution does not stop the government from dealing with the high level of unemployment or from reviewing immigration needs.
“We believe that the government has found itself in a position where the need for revenue requires a certain level of work permits to be approved and maintained and there must be a serious effort to move away from this. This is a rather difficult place we acknowledge but there must be a balance strike. Too many of our people are unemployed and are losing hope daily. Hopelessness will only implode and can manifest itself in ways that we can ill afford,” she said.
The opposition leader stated that we too often think that the face of the unemployed in this country are those who did not or barely completed high school, those who lack skills and qualifications or who do not want to truly work. However, we must realize that some of our brightest and experienced minds are unemployed: they are qualified, ready, willing and able.
“Last night I was again disheartened to see a qualified welder of over 30 years on the news speaking to the difficulty to find employment in his own country. We must make every effort to address our immediate issues and get our people to work. I have always encouraged persons to register and I know the discouragement when one hears no response but it is the only way that the government will know how many jobs are required. I am calling on the government to pay serious attention to the collection of this data and to then create a jobs policy, one that will plan for our youth as they leave school each year,” she said.
Cartwright-Robinson said that we will continue to do our country a disservice if we neglect to take a holistic approach to addressing our immigration problems: the high costs to repatriate the increasing number of illegal migrants when monies can be spent elsewhere, overcrowding at schools, drain on other social services, unemployment and underemployment, friendly processes that encourage an investor and business friendly environment.
“We await the draft bill and the policies that will have be introduced as a consequence, we await the government’s full statement on how it intends to combat illegal immigration, how it intends to ensure that our people are at work and its plans to create jobs and encourage growth, as well as the need to ensure that our people begin to take senior management positions in key areas in government and the private Sector and training. To this end I applaud the efforts of the companies that have come together to stage a job readiness seminar. I encourage persons who are able to, to support this initiative,” she said.
“It is time to get serious about immigration and border control,” Cartwright-Robinson concluded.