Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has raised the possibility of another amnesty for immigrants who have gaps in the residency period required in order to qualify for citizenship.
Browne’s remarks on his radio station at the weekend, reportedly followed a number of concerns raised by non-nationals at a recent Labour Party event.
In 2015, Antigua and Barbuda passed the Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act 2015 under which illegal immigrants could seek amnesty to have their time extended. That amnesty period ran until the end of the year.
Where amnesty was granted, that period during which the person was an illegal immigrant would be calculated as lawful residency toward the granting of Antigua and Barbuda citizenship.
The Citizenship Act requires that a person seeking citizenship be ordinarily resident in Antigua and Barbuda for no less than seven years, of which not less than five years in total must have been spent in the country.
Browne said another amnesty is something that could be considered for the new year.
“Those who feel we should do another amnesty let me know because we can’t have a situation where people are disenfranchised unnecessarily, people who live here for 15 and 20 years and for some reason they can’t get their citizenship because there’s a so-called gap.”
According to Browne, people contributing to the success of the country should not receive inferior treatment.
“They must feel as though they’re part of the society and if they serve their time and they qualify for citizenship we should not be putting artificial impediments in their way.”
In considering whether an application for amnesty should be granted, the Cabinet would look at whether the applicant has any criminal convictions, their family ties in the country where applicable, and any other information it deems relevant to the application.