Thousands of New Yorkers who are third generation descendants of Barbadians are likely to get in the new year what they have been dreaming of for a long time and never thought would become reality — citizenship of Barbados.
This is because the laws of Barbados which have allowed persons born on the island then took up residence abroad to pass on the island’s nationality only to their children and never their grandchildren, will be changed in 2020 enabling on-island born Bajans to bestow that status on their children’s children.
Barbados Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, has announced that this coming change in the law is part of a sheaf of legal immigration changes he will take to parliament early next year with the aim of boosting the island’s receding population.
“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 said recently.
Reacting happily to this announcement, Barbados Consul General in New York, Mackie Holder told Caribbean Life, that citizenship by descent for Barbadians living abroad, “is one of those topics that always brings instantaneous applause whenever and wherever it is spoken about. Prime Minister Mia Mottley [spoke] about it at the NY 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 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.”
This joy for Bajan New Yorkers and others across the United States exposes the ironic circumstances of the island in which many persons born abroad with Bajan blood are wishing to migrate and offer services to the land of their grandparents’ birth but cannot do so but the island continues to suffer a need for population growth.
Hinkson explained, “in the last five years between 2014 and 2018 our rate of natural increase [of Barbadians] has hovered between 1.2 and -0.4, with our rate of population growth between those years being in the negative, -0.2 percent in 2014 and 2015, and -0.4 percent in 2016, 2017 and 2018.”
Government has determined that its current population and the negative growth numbers make for an inadequate workforce base for the island’s future development needs.
Noting that the substantial Bajan workforce in the US has contributed to that country’s development, Hinkson said, “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.”
He added, “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 got to Canada which opened its doors on the basis of this policy and philosophy from the late 1960s.”