Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says a decision by the UK to impose visa restrictions on Dominican passport holders is unfortunate and hurtful. But Skerrit said, “It shall not permanently harm us”.
“We shall rebound, we shall effect the necessary changes and we shall continue to punch our way back from all that has beset and impacted us over the years,” Skerrit said in an address to the nation Thursday,
On Wednesday, the British Home Office announced that it was imposing a visa regime on Dominicans due to concerns over the island’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI).
The Home Secretary said careful consideration of Dominica’s and Vanuatu’s operation of a citizenship-by-investment scheme has shown clear and evident abuse of the scheme, including the granting of citizenship to individuals known to pose a risk to the UK
But Skerrit said the decision of the United Kingdom to suspend visa-free access to the UK for holders of passports from a number of countries, including Dominica, must be understood in that general context.
“The British Government has made it clear that this decision to suspend VISA-free access, does not represent a deterioration of relations between our two nations; nor is it indicative of any diplomatic or other fall out. They have cited concerns with our CBI programme and I wish to assure the Dominican people that several changes have already been made to the structure and management of our program and in the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to implement additional measures to strengthen the programme,” he said in his address.
Skerrit said his Dominica Labour Party government and the entire nation for that matter, take this matter very seriously and will increase efforts in showcasing our robust due diligence and risk mitigation efforts on all fronts.
“The Commonwealth of Dominica has some of the most proactive and robust due diligence processes and vets everyone looking to attain second or alternative citizenship in the country. This vetting process is multi-layered and handled by top-rated due diligence agencies based in the United Kingdom and the United States,” Skerrit said
According to him, Dominica has taken the lead in this region in seeking regional coordination on the various CBI programmes and in discussing ways to safeguard all of these programmes.
“Our nation implemented the six CBI Principles proposed by the United States, including implementation of mandatory interviews for applicants 16 years and older for its Citizenship by Investment Programme. This step highlights the country’s commitment to cooperating with international stakeholders and increasing due diligence processes, with the aim of reducing threats posed by illicit actors”, Skerrit added.
Furthermore, he said as a Small Island Developing State, Dominica has used funds from its CBI programme to address the devastating impacts of climate change on our island, to boost our self-reliance – transforming our economy, driving growth, enhancing our climate resilience and empowering local communities.
“In the US-Caribbean roundtable that was recently held, it was noted that dismantling CBI programmes would severely compromise the prosperity and prospects of the nations that run these programmes, triggering a plethora of negative socio-economic consequences,” according to the Dominican leader
He said the Caribbean has been taking a proactive approach in addressing international concerns about CBI Programmes.
And, Dominica has been very cooperative – implementing a number of measures to clamp down on unsavory characters who may want to use the programmes as an entry point to countries such as the United Kingdom.
“The level of inspection that takes place as part of the due diligence process is so high it leaves very little chance for undesirables to be accepted without suspicion. Checks happen on the ground, online, and now in-person thanks to the mandatory interview that must take place,” Skerrit said
Where the CIP in Dominica is concerned, Skerrit said his government will continue to evolve our due diligence processes, as we are already doing, to ensure that they not only meet international standards but alleviate any security concerns.
“We have fresh impetus to go back and relook where we can do even better in terms of giving our international counterparts confidence in our security measures – which are already some of the most robust in the world when compared to other jurisdictions. As a matter of fact, we shall engage the services of a European based entity that shall come in to do a comprehensive review of our entire programme,” he added
The Dominican government said it will continue to engage the United Kingdom on the matter – as it will do with other nations, like those of the European Union and the United States.
“Much like the EU, the UK is in the midst of setting up its own Electronic Travel Authorization program. When implemented later this year, anyone entering the UK who does not require a visa will have to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation to enter the UK.
Meanwhile, Skerrit said while the imposition of visa requirements will create an inconvenience for many of our citizens who visit the UK for vacation, to visit family and who transit to the UK frequently.
“This, however, does not prevent Dominicans from traveling to or through the United Kingdom. Dominicans are still welcome in the United Kingdom. To reiterate their desire not to impede the efforts of Dominican residents at home to enter and transit the United Kingdom, the British government has instituted a programme where it shall accept applications online and set up office on demand here in Dominica to allow applicants to submit their biometrics and to finalize their applications. Dominicans who do not reside in Dominica can also request entry visas at UK consular offices nearest to them”, he added