The revelation made last week by Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of National Security Gary Griffith that more than 7 000 Barbadians were living in that neighbouring Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country illegally seems to have taken many Bajans by surprise.
No doubt many would have been fooled into believing that it is only Guyanese and Jamaicans who live in other people’s countries without their legal papers, and with the exception of perhaps criminal fugitives, with no better existence than to swing from pillar to post and territory to territory, there isn’t much that would make us Bajans overstay our welcome in any other Caribbean island.
How else could we who pride ourselves in being the “gem” of the Caribbean, consistently and ably justify the continuous thumping of our broad insular chests, while losing no opportunity to remind our neighbours to our immediate north and south, that, CARICOM or no CARICOM, they are ‘ever so welcome’, but they should ‘wait for a call’.
This nationalistic mentality has worsened with the current difficult economic crisis. What started out, as simply a misguided man’s beat, in support of his selfish and narrow political ambitions, has now coalesced into a strong national chorus sung both hither and yon to remind ourselves of the need to keep out others.
However, truth be told, the same could be done to many a Barbadian for whom overstaying is nothing new.
And we are not speaking here only of the United States, where perhaps the most convincing case may be made at this stage for deporting some of our nationals in the same way that our Government has done in the most humiliating way to Guyanese.
Ironically, it looks as if that day has now come.
And that Trinidadian immigration officers could soon be the ones carrying out those horrible raids, sometimes in the dead of the night of homes and workplaces in search of any undocumented dwellers.
Never mind the length of stay. Be it seven or 12 years, 15 or 20, it would be time to pack all bags and leave most likely on the first flight out of Bridgetown.
Ironically, the argument Trinidad is putting forward right now is almost identical to the one levelled by the David Thompson-led administration back in 2009.
We are now hearing from the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government that these illegals, mostly Guyanese and Jamaicans, have been putting more demand “than our own people” when it comes to healthcare, education, employment and housing.
In Trinidad’s case, a strong link is also being made to the situation with crime and violence.
In the majority of instances, those immigrants overstay their time by going outside of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) six-month period, while others make false claims to immigration officers.
To this Griffith warns that “The CSME is not one where you can enter a country and remain indefinitely.”
As Trinidad gears up for an inevitable clampdown, we need to watch closely those getting off Caribbean Airline flights since from the looks of it all, we will not be the only ones saying “ever so welcome, wait for a call”.