Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has issued a stern warning to public officers that they should adhere to the prescribed laws put in place by the Government of Dominica as it relates to the issuance of work permits to non-nationals.
His comments came on the heels of a police investigation which produced charges of fraud-related offences against two public officers late last week.
Speaking during a recent cabinet press briefing, Skerrit said, “It has been a concern for us for some time and as you’ve seen the government has taken several measures to try to eliminate these practices that have been taking place and the facilitation of Haitians outside of the prescribed process.”
The prime minister noted that several new measures have been put in place, but that on numerous occasions, various amendments had to be made.
“So it’s just a matter for everyone who is involved in the process to understand that there are laws and there’s process governance and there are prescribed fees for these things,” he said. “So when the government is taking action people must allow the government to take action to protect its national security and the security of its neighbours.”
As it pertains to the Haitian national, Skerrit is of the view that actions they are allowing themselves to be subjected to are “wrong” and says that his government has been very welcoming to them while also ensuring they are not exploited.
He said that the Government has provided the non-nationals unfettered work permits, all in an attempt to shield them from being taken advantage of.
“So we’ve tried to protect the Haitians and their presence here. We welcome them here because they are our brothers and sisters; they’re CARICOM citizens and I think Dominica is one of the few countries within CARICOM which really facilitates Haitians in that regard,” he stated.
The prime minister pointed to benefits such as free education, schooling and health care that Haitians who reside here have received like every other Dominican.
“We have been able to send some of the Haitians to universities in many parts of the world; we facilitate them because we believe these are the right things to do,” Skerrit added. “But as it relates to the regulation and the work permit, people have to respect the process and it is something that we have to continue reviewing but it can be a challenge sometimes.”
The Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs, in a press statement, has said that preliminary investigations by the police into the alleged work permit fraud does not, in any way, include legitimate documents processed by the ministry.
The ministry expressed confidence in the new system which it says has been put in place to ensure the sanctity of the process of work permit issuance in Dominica.
“The minister of National Security in 2020 took the decision to suspend the old process to put in place a new system with new guidelines to ensure improvement in the delivery of service. The systems and processes at the ministry and specifically the division of labour and immigration, remain full proof and exceptionally reliable,” the release stated.
While calling on non-nationals to respect the laws, the Ministry also urged employers to adhere to the provisions of the Immigration and Passport Act which requires every person not being a citizen of Dominica wishing to be engaged in productive activity on the island, to obtain a work permit from the minister of labour.
According to the Immigration and Passport Amendment Act # 19 of 2003 section 8 (1), “Any person found guilty of an offence under this act for which a specific penalty is provided in any section, is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of ten thousand dollars (EC$10,000) or imprisonment for one year or both such fine and imprisonment.”