Among objectives of its planned new immigration policy and law, Barbados is seeking to reverse a brain and labour drain that has beset third-world and developing countries for scores of years.
A proposed amendment to the law would enable the island to draw on talents of more than one generation of Bajan offspring trained by and living in other territories.
When announcing intended changes to the Immigration Act recently, Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson said: “We will expand citizenship [rights] to grandparents and great-grandparents, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you are a grandchild or a great grandchild of a Barbadian citizen, you will thereafter be entitled to Barbadian citizenship.”
He noted that the current law allows parents to pass on citizenship to their children only, and not the succeeding generations.
Addressing a citizenship induction ceremony for 64 persons who received Barbadian citizenship last month in the Horatio Cooke Auditorium of the National Union of Public Workers, Hinkson said that an expansion of the category for citizenship by descent is included in proposals he will lay before Cabinet in January. Once approved, the changes will be forwarded to Parliament in an amendment bill.
While fulfilling a need to boost the decreasing Barbados population, an extension of citizenship rights beyond the first-generation Barbadian born abroad also addresses a need among Bajans who long left the island but wish for their offspring to have legal ties with the homeland.
“Last year, our representative in Cuba wrote me saying that our brothers in Cuba…wanted honorary citizenship. I couldn’t do anything. I told him honorary citizenship is not a status that I as Minister of Immigration could give,” Hinkson said. “But now they will be able to have a platform for citizenship because they can trace their great grandparents back to Barbados.”
Thousands of Barbadians who migrated to Cuba in the early 20th century in search of work remained there.
Pointing out that the request for citizenship is not unique to Bajans in Cuba, Hinkson said: “This is something that Ministers, especially the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, hear when they travel to countries.”
“People ask about this provision because a lot of our relatives who live in England, especially the United States, Canada – grandchildren, great grandchildren – would like citizenship of Barbados, would like to contribute to this country; maybe come back to better weather,” he added.
Supporting Hinkson’s statement, Barbados Consul General in New York, Mackie Holder told Barbados TODAY, “it is one of those topics that always bring instantaneous applause whenever and wherever it is spoken about. Prime Minister Mia Mottley [spoke] about it at the [New York] town hall meeting in September and experienced the response”.
“It is a good thing for Barbados and for Barbadians in the Diaspora and I am sure most will take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
Holder said the number of Barbadian descendants in his jurisdiction and other popular areas for Bajan settlement in the US who stand to benefit, could number in the thousands.
“We do not know who has grandchildren and the number of grandchildren they have, but there are some 50,000-plus Barbadians in Brooklyn alone. I would think that between NY, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and Connecticut there are over 100,000 definitely in the north-east corridor.”
Noting that the substantial Bajan workforce in the US has contributed to that country’s development, Hinkson added: “We can’t be happy building up the United States of America which is a country of immigrants. It is the leading country economically because of the immigrants. We Barbadians are among the people that helped build it up.…We also have to adopt that philosophy to a greater extent.”
“It can’t be that we go overseas as Barbadians and we build up other countries, as we helped build the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 60s. Every Barbadian has relatives who left during those years to go to live in England, or to go to Canada which opened its doors on the basis of this policy and philosophy from the late 1960s,” he added.