The British Virgin Islands has become the third British territory in the Caribbean to impose visa restrictions on nationals of Jamaica.
The BVI’s chief minister said Jamaicans had been the main culprits in breaching local immigration laws, the Jamaica Gleaner has reported.
In his weekly address to Virgin Islanders, Chief Minister Orlando Smith said Jamaicans had committed most of the immigration offences in the territory between the years 2002 and 2006.
Smith gave no figures, but said the numbers have kept going up.
“Unfortunately, most of the violations are for overstaying and working illegally. The statistics have progressively increased over the years and we must therefore put stringent measures in place to curb this type of illegal activity,” the chief minister said.
He said the BVI had to manage who comes into the territory, how long they stayed and what they did, and that the government had therefore decided to require all Jamaican visitors to obtain a visa from the first of April.
Smith said that by doing so, the BVI was joining other British territories – the Cayman Islands and Anguilla along with Dutch St Maarten.
Chief Minister Smith emphasised, however, that the visa regime “is not a ban nor does it prohibit Jamaican nationals from entering the BVI”.
But he explained that the territory had to strike the right balance in its immigration policies.
Mr. Smith said many Jamaicans were already making a positive contribution to BVI society.
“Hundreds of Jamaican nationals reside here in the BVI and make a tremendous positive contribution to our community. They are doctors and lawyers and accountants and teachers,” he observed.
Last year, the Cayman Islands made its move against Jamaican immigration.
Cayman residents were increasingly worried by a rise in criminality for which they principally blamed Jamaicans, who make up a high proportion of the expatriate workforce in the islands.
But the Jamaican government hit back by announcing new restrictions on visiting Caymanians from last December.
It hinted at reciprocal measures elsewhere.
The visa restrictions mirror the British visa requirements for nationals of Jamaica that were introduced in 2003.