Today’s Opinion: Communication

POSTED: 04/18/11 5:00 PM

No grace period. No transition period. It is every country’s right to determine, who it lets in, who stays and who has to leave. The last point is important and very valid in the context of what we consider the broader discussion around visas.

It really comes down to border security and immigration. How easily does someone get into and out of a country and what happens when they don’t leave? That is a core issue here, when one looks at visa restrictions. Let’s look at the facts.

On the one hand the island is struggling to provide education, healthcare and basic infrastructure to all of the people who live here. On the other hand immigrants do jobs that some locals will not consider across a range of professions and they pay taxes and inject money into sickness insurance and pension funds. Some argue that when they weigh the costs and the benefits, immigrants are found to be taking too much out of the system and the best way to deal with that is to cut off their access to the island as much as possible.

One way to meet that demand is a visa requirement, but we dare say that the other prong that needs to be beefed up is the immigration controls in country. Because yes, by using visas, some will be deterred from coming, but with the island already at capacity, the burden is not going to get lighter. In fact it will stay the same and then we’ll have an issue where the cost of the more expensive things we want will have to be spread over the group that is here.

So as the government moves forward what we really need to hear is this: What are the concrete plans for internal immigration controls so that the people residing here illegally are made to leave? Also how does the government view immigration? What is the type of immigrant and vacationer it wants to attract?

While we understand the argument that there was no transition period because the government wishes to avoid mass arrivals before the regulation takes effect, it is somewhat beyond us that the government does not understand that some more promotion and some grace is necessary, because as we pointed out in our editorial on Friday, some people have made plans before the announcement was made.

And while Justice Minister Duncan has answered many questions he also left some unanswered. A key one is how many fall into the category of exempted number of passengers and in what time period. Will the Minister exempt those who arrived on the effective date, the day after, a week after?

What is also curious is that the actual decision of the Council of Ministers has yet to be published – and a decision does not go into effect until that happens. We ask ourselves, how does the minister expect people to believe while the entire legal process has not been followed at home that he is telling the truth about the procedure abroad?

It is worrying that expedience is found around this matter, but then we see that there is no neat wrap up to the activity and it is not communicated well. The public expects the government to act, but it also expects the government to act properly and ensure that things are done well, especially on a foreign affairs issue that will affect the island’s reputation in the region.

No one here will quibble for a second or bat an eyelash at the need for border security, but people will be rubbed the wrong way because of sloppiness and disregard for consequences.

We also choose to point out here again that the United States gave its citizens three months notice in 2007 that they would be required to show a passport when returning from the Caribbean and Mexico by land, sea or air. Even that time was not enough and the effective date had to be pushed back to mid 2008. So really is a decision made two months ago and communicated a few weeks later sufficient notice, especially when the visa processing takes two to three weeks? The answer is no.

We do not encourage a debate around this issue forever, but we do believe that the piecemeal approach that continues to be the order of the day needs to be laid to rest. Yes a government or minister can be busy with many things, but that is no reason, not to communicate well at every stage. We encourage following processes through to the very end. None of the previous announcements contained an effective date. The only real warning came a day after the measure took effect.


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