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Migration and visas

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Fri, Sept 21, 2012

Editor: Migration of Vincentians has been increasing steadily over the past 30 years. According to the Population and Housing Census of St Vincent and the Grenadines for 1991, the natural increase of the population between 1980 and 1991 was 23,553 persons.{{more}} However, there was a net migration of 14,889 persons or 62.26 percent of the natural increase of the population; thus, only 8.654 persons or 37.74 percent of the natural increase, remained in St Vincent and the Grenadines by 1991.

The census for 2001, which showed population movements for the period 1991 to 2001, found that net migration was higher than the natural increase in the population. The natural increase in the population between 1991 and 2001 was 17,596 but the net migration in the same period was 18,169. Net migration between 1991 to 2001 actually increased by 3,280. It is this excess of net migration over the natural increase of the population in the 1991 – 2001 period when compared to the 1980 – 1991 period which occasioned the decline of the overall population between 1991 and 2001.

The 2011 census data are not yet available, but from anecdotal evidence, it is almost a certainty that the trend of a further increase of net migration in excess of the natural increase of the population would have continued between 2001 and 2011.

These figures provide one of the contexts, the demographic-migration context, within which to view the increased “refugee” claimants to Canada over the years. The recent decision by the Canadian government to require visas for Vincentians to travel to Canada, would in all probability, reduce dramatically these “refugee” claims, but it will not reverse the trend for increased migration.

There are several reasons for this likely continued migratory trend: first, Vincentians have a long history of migration going back over 100 years. It is in the nature of an “island” people to have an outward gaze, as much as an inward look, for opportunities. Secondly, the large numbers of Vincentian migrants already living in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean would always draw family members from St Vincent and the Grenadines to meet them, legally, in those countries. Thirdly, the Education Revolution in St Vincent and the Grenadines enhances the education and training of Vincentians and thus makes them more likely candidates for legal migration. Fourthly, because St Vincent and the Grenadines is a middle-income developing country, with sophisticated legal, political, institutional and socio-cultural structures and way of life, in which the English language is the “native” tongue, it would always be looked upon favourably as a locale from which legal migration would flow. Fifthly, and ironically, improved living conditions and earnings in St Vincent and the Grenadines facilitate Vincentians to travel more and live elsewhere, at least for a time.

It is unfortunate that the Canadian government felt compelled to impose visa requirements on Vincentians to travel to Canada, but most bona fide visa applicants, by far, would get visas to go to Canada, in the same way as they get visas to go to the USA. In all this we must remember that there are more Vincentians in the USA than in Canada, despite the fact that visas have always been required for entry into the USA. Visas are truly an inconvenience and an additional expense for potential Vincentian migrants, but I am sure that large numbers of Vincentians will still travel to Canada. However, a significant fall in “refugee” claims and “immigration violations” is likely.

In the meantime it makes sense for all Vincentians to obey the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries governing migration. At home, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, all concerned (applicants, registry officials, immigration officials, the lawyers, the Justices of Peace, the Government, etc.) in the process of obtaining or issuing documents for travel must obey the law of the land. Possible loopholes must be closed. Overseas, Vincentians must resist the temptation of “beating the system” illegally or through unsustainable legal ruses. Invariably the authorities would catch up with you and the consequences are not in your interest.

Hans King

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