As a follow up to my previous article on the enlargement of the voting franchise, it is important that we address and review the path to obtain the Turks and Caicos Islanders Status. After reading the Turks and Caicos Islander Status Ordinance 2015, the voting franchise can easily be enlarged by migrants.
The pathway to citizenship by migrants is a contentious issue universally and therefore the citizens should participate and control on how the grant of citizenship should take place. This is no different from the citizens of UK wanting control of immigration and its border and hence their desire to exit the European Union.
The current pathway to Citizenship in TCI
Based on the aforementioned ordinance, there are two paths to citizenship namely acquisition by right and acquisition by grant.
Acquisition by right takes places when
- A person is born in the islands and one of the parents at the time of birth has TCI Status.
- A person is born outside TCI and one of the parents has TCI status and at least one or the parents or grandparents was born in TCI or if a person was “settled” in the island.
- A person under 18 is adopted by a person who has TCI status.
Acquisition by grant occurs when
- A British overseas territories citizen or a British citizen has a permanent residence certificate for at least 5 years
- A British overseas territories citizen or a British citizen has been legally resident in the island for a period of 10 years
- A person’s spouse has status and has been married for 10 years and living in the islands for 2 years.
- A dependent child whose parents were legal in the country, a person who has acquired British overseas, a person who has been legally in the islands for 10 years and is 18 years old
TC Islanders need to make an input or do a referendum
When the Turks and Caicos Islands Status Ordinance was introduced, I do not recall if there was any consultation by the locals. I do not even know if this was on the manifesto of the party. When the UK Government was discussing Brexit, a referendum was done by the electorate of UK to determine the outcome. When the Turks and Caicos Islands Government was seeking for constitutional changes, they had town hall meetings to get input from the people.
The pathway to citizenship is a sensitive and topical area and can impact our country for the rest of our lives. Therefore, we must engage the Turks and Caicos Islanders on such matters either through referendum, town hall meetings or on the manifesto of the politicians.
Focus on permanent residence for migrants and increase citizenry by TCI Diaspora
I am unaware of the background to this Ordinance. Perhaps the Government wanted to regularize migrants. Perhaps the Government wanted to remove some of the uncertainty for migrant residents. Perhaps the Government wanted the residents to feel and be a part of the country. Perhaps the Government wanted to increase the citizenry population. If the intent was for the first three reasons, then the Government should have focused on issuing permanent resident status and not citizenship. If the intent is the last reason, then we should be on a campaign to entice and provide incentives to Turks and Caicos Islanders and their descendants living abroad to invest, live and work in TCI. After all, there are more Turks and Caicos Islanders living abroad than there in TCI. Many migrants see the potential in the country and our doing well. It is time for more Turks and Caicos Islanders to participate in the economic and political affairs of TCI . One way to do so is reach out to the TCI Diaspora.
The pathway to citizenship is not a matter that should be taken lightly. It should not be decided by cabinet only unless it was a campaign issue and people voted for it. Furthermore, it should not be decided by the UK even though we are an overseas territory. We want a say and control on our immigration issues just like the UK electorate voted for in the Brexit referendum.
Finally, if the TCIG can ask residents to participate in a survey on the use of plastics and whether or not we should change time, then certainly we should ask our citizens to decide on the pathway to citizenship for others.