Browne says waiving fees for amnesty is removing impediment; but critics call it bribery

In a move that many are already describing as a bribe, the Gaston Browne Administration will be waiving the fees owed by non-nationals under its proposed amnesty programme.

The Government recently announced that it would offer an amnesty to resident immigrants who have failed to regularize their stay over the years. This programme is expected to run from March 1 to the end of April.

Prime Minister Browne says that, often, when an amnesty is offered, those targeted are unable to pay the outstanding fees — preventing them from taking advantage of the programme.

Browne says the Government will not be losing any revenue since these persons will be spending money to acquire residency status in addition to applying for citizenship. 

He sees the arrears as artificial impediments for persons who are seeking to regularize their status in the country.

Meanwhile, Browne says that, based on an IMF report, Antigua and Barbuda may end up with a labour shortage if something is not immediately done to expand the current workforce.

He says that ensuring the status of those working in the country is regularized is a step in the right direction.

Several residents tell REAL News they are “not buying” Browne’s rationale. One says the waiving of fees is a “naked inducement” to the non-nationals, while another calls it “a shameless vote-grab.”

Meanwhile, a banker says that “instead of quoting the IMF conveniently,” the Prime Minister should publish the agency’s Article 4 Reports for the last eight years.

He adds that, with unemployment as high as it is, especially among the youth, “the Government’s talk of expanding the workforce is laughable.”