Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Vincent “Boo” Nurse
COVID-19 has naturally impacted deeply on many institutions across the world. The Barbados High Commission in the UK is not an exception.
I therefore spoke to the Resident High Commissioner for Barbados in the UK, His Excellency Milton Inniss, to get his views on how the High Commission has coped with the many local changes that have brought an abnormality to the operations of the Mission.
His Excellency began by saying that all operations were carried out through the lens of COVID-19 and therefore over the last fourteen months there had to be an adaptability by the office to meet renewed conditions and rules which were laid out by the UK government.
The High Commissioner is in his third year at the Court of St James and he acknowledged that the last year has been particularly testing, especially during the phase of the first lockdown.
I asked him to comment further. His Excellency said: “Many Barbadians who were away from the island during this period, experienced many difficulties in getting flights to return home.
Their first port for refuge was the office of the High Commission and our staff were inundated with pleas for assistance, generally of a financial nature.”
And I queried: were there other avenues through which alternative means of help could have been given? The High Commissioner said that in partnership with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) negotiations were entered into with British Airways and together they were able to arrange a repatriation flight to Barbados.
His Excellency added that approximately one hundred Barbados nationals, together with others from the Caribbean, were able to get back home.
Communication between the local diaspora and the High Commission was a subject much discussed in the community during the period of lockdown, so I invited His Excellency to comment on this subject.
Mr Inniss said steps were taken and are still being taken to have staff available to deal with the many enquiries from nationals.
He added: “Staff members worked assiduously and remotely during all hours to give guidance and information when required to do so.” And he further pointed out that a great proportion of the work was carried out from the homes of individuals.
I sensed a great degree of pride and satisfaction in the High Commissioner’s report on the cooperation he received during a difficult period. However, I did wonder whether or not all the normal operations such as management of passport applications and welfare visits to the sick were still ongoing.
The High Commissioner said the business of the Government of Barbados was ever uppermost in the Mission’s work and he added that “together with the BTMI momentum has been maintained, although the road has at times, been somewhat rocky.”
The High Commissioner seems to have a full and taxing year ahead and he is currently busily involved in preparation for a UK/Caribbean High Commissioners Forum, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting due to be held in Rwanda in June, and a conference on climate change which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland.
We returned to local and domestic matters and I wondered what part, if any, did the High Commission play in the promotion of the Government’s policy which enables foreign nationals to work for a year in Barbados.
His Excellency said the policy is essentially birthed in Barbados but has been greatly buttressed in the UK through the work of the BTMI in London.
And he continued: “We have received a great number of enquiries following on from a TV programme of Barbados on Channel 4.
I greatly appreciate the support given to the policy and I expect that it will bring great benefit to the country.” And is there a message for the diaspora in the UK? His Excellency said: “1. Government has announced that it intends to bring legislation which would enable the grandchildren who were born overseas to Barbadians to take up nationality status, but as yet the legislation has not been proclaimed. 2. Preparations are ongoing towards the establishment of Barbados as a Republic and I expect that this will happen in November. 3.
It is the intention of Government to create offices at Attaché level in pursuit of its policy to fully engage with the diaspora across the globe.”
Finally, His Excellency said he was fully mindful of the exceptional work being done by many Barbadians in their communities across the country.
He added: “The contribution they have made is exemplary and to be commended. It speaks highly to the motto ‘Service above self’.”
Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and disapora.