Migration comes full circle
June 23, 2023
Migration comes full circle

Over the years, St Vincent and the Grenadines has usually had net negative migration, with more Vincentians leaving for “greener pastures” than others coming here as immigrants.

During the 20th century, young ambitious Vincentians left in waves in search of better lives for themselves and the families they left behind. They went wherever there was work; British Guiana (BG), Cuba, Curacao, Aruba, Panama, Trinidad, Barbados, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

The only time that the net movement of people to this country was reversed was during the 18th and 19th centuries when Africans were forcibly brought here in shackles, followed by indentured labourers from India and Madeira.

It is estimated that over 300,000 people of Vincentian heritage reside outside of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

But recently we learned that in the last six years, hundreds of West Africans, mostly Nigerians have been encouraged to apply for residency and work permits in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) after they were stranded here.

The move to regularize the status of the Nigerians is apparently part of Government policy to increase the size of the active work force.

Population growth in SVG is slowing, and the elderly are living longer. The social security system is feeling the strain, so the retirement age is being pushed up, in order to delay the point at which workers will begin to receive their pensions.

This is why efforts to grow the economy are critical so that jobs can be created and standards of living improved. More jobs mean more young people contributing to the social security system and rising standards of living will decrease the number of people receiving assistance from the public purse.

The idea to grow the population by encouraging migration is commendable, but only if the migrants are able to find jobs or create employment for themselves. We are not sure how successful the Nigerians have been in their efforts to make a living for themselves, but we wish them well. It would also be interesting to learn the constituencies across which they have taken up residence as this could have political implications.

After nearly three centuries, we have come full circle. Africans are once more making St Vincent and the Grenadines their home. In neither case was it by their own volition, but at least this time, our brothers and sisters have agency, they are no one’s chattel.