Acting Labor Commissioner Michelle McLean seemed perplexed when asked at a recent stakeholder meeting about a mandatory annual review of a policy that examines employment and migration needs in the territory.

During the meeting, a resident noted that there is a requirement in the Labor Code for an annual review of the overall policy on international migration to the BVI. This same resident then asked when the last review was done and asked, “assuming the stakeholder meeting would lead to a Labor Policy Review, when would a report be completed and tabled in the House of Assembly ?”.

Labor Secretary Vincent Wheatley then quickly said the Labor Department was “working on the report”. He then forwarded the Resident’s query to McLean for further elaboration.

“A report on international migration? Is that what the person is asking over there? McLean replied

“We are not currently working on any reports on international migration, we are working on different types of reports. I think we need to do some type of assessment first in terms of the workforce itself,” she added.

According to the labor commissioner, the labor department only has information based on work permit holders, but would need a full assessment of the entire workforce, including residents of BV islands and members, before they can undertake any further migration-related reporting.

What the law says

According to Section 178(1) of the BVI Labor Code 2010: “The Minister shall cause to be prepared and reviewed annually a comprehensive policy on international migration for employment which is based on the economic and social needs of the Virgin Islands and takes into account the short-term human resource needs; the short-term availability of human resources in the Virgin Islands; and the long-term social and economic consequences of migration for the people of the Virgin Islands, members and migrant workers.

It further states: “The Minister shall submit the policy prepared under subsection (1) and each revision to Cabinet for approval and the approved policy shall be laid before the House of Assembly as soon as practicable.”

The Department of Immigration has data on migration

Meanwhile Chief Immigration Officer Ian Penn, when asked to comment on the matter, said a migration report for the territory was important, but said he would not was not involved in providing advice or information for such a report.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Joseph Smith Abbott, then said the issue of a migration review was something that needed very serious consideration.

“That may be something to seriously consider in terms of looking at the whole workforce development and workforce needs in the context of migration as well,” Smith Abbot said.

Penn stepped in to inform, however, that the new BVI border management system is equipped to collect data on labor migration into the territory and said this can be used to make decisions for a given period.

Officials did not indicate at the stakeholder meeting whether a policy had already been issued or revised as required by the Labor Code.

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