February 13, 2010

Illegal immigrants granted six-month amnesty in Antigua

(Antigua Sun) – Illegal immigrants in Antigua and Barbuda will be allowed to leave the country voluntarily during a six-month period.

This was revealed by Minster of National Security and Labour Dr Errol Cort at a press conference on Thursday where contents of a report pertaining to immigration matters were made public.

Public consultations were held on the hot button issue which engaged considerable discussions.

The three-member committee chaired by Dr Cort to look into the matter has recommended that those people residing in the country illegally be given the opportunity to leave on their own.

“It is the recommendation of the committee that they be given six months to leave and that, if they have not left the jurisdiction within that period of time then the appropriate action should be taken,” the report recommended.

The six-month period was chosen because it is considered that the programme for street naming and building numbering can be completed within that period.

The street naming and building numbering project would enhance the capacity of the police and immigration officers to find persons who are in Antigua illegally.

“However, the committee recognises that, when faced with this requirement, individuals may present compelling circumstances (eg extensive length of stay in the country, age, family ties, etc.) which would suggest that they be given an opportunity to regularise their status rather than be required to leave.

“In order to implement this, the process would have to be articulated in legislative framework to ensure transparency.”

While some people felt that amnesty should be granted to the illegal immigrants the committee decided against this approach, citing that there is no compelling argument for implementing “a programme for the widespread grant of amnesty.

“The prevailing view was that if we are to pursue immigration reform in Antigua and Barbuda, it is of importance that the message of zero-tolerance of non-compliance with the law must be conveyed.

“Flowing from this was the view that amnesty was not an acceptable way forward and should not be entertained as an option.

Indeed, some persons were of the view that persons who were in Antigua and Barbuda illegally should be deported,” the report said.

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