The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has issued an ultimatum to expats not presently working to leave the country.
According to a report in BVI local news outlet the BVI Beacon, the government is instructing expatriates who are unemployed due to the covid-19 pandemic to return to their home countries as soon as possible unless they have the requisite permission to seek another job.
Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley has issued the demand in a BVI House of Assembly statement last week.
"I am aware that in a time like this many persons may be disheartened and frustrated by the decision to have them return to their home country, and though we are walking by faith and not by sight, the reality shows a future filled with bleak times for the world," said Wheatley. "We must ask ourselves how long we can carry on, and we must make decisions that are sustainable for the foreseeable future."
He said the departments handling labour and immigration have continued to see an escalation in the number of people temporarily laid off or terminated because of the pandemic.
Wheatley said that 6,650 people had applied for aid through the $10m government programme that temporarily has been providing assistance to unemployed and underemployed residents. But he said this large-scale financial assistance "cannot last forever."
Some residents who recently lost their jobs do have avenues for seeking other employment. But this option typically is only available to people who have resided in the Virgin Islands for at least five years and have not previously received a conditional permit within the past three years, he said.
Conditional permitholders will have an extra three months to try finding another job, he explained.
"The reality is some people will not be able to find alternative jobs, and without financial or family support will be required to leave the territory," Mr. Wheatley said.
The Labour Code, 2010 prioritises the employment of Virgin Islanders and belongers, and the job market is shrinking, he added.
"We therefore ask that persons falling within this category of being released from permanent employment, being unable to find alternative work and unable to obtain a conditional permit, begin to make the necessary arrangements to return to their homeland or an approved receiving jurisdiction of their choosing," he said.