During their weekly radio programme, Just the Facts, on Monday, September 27, the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, and her colleague, Mr. Cardigan Connor, came up with what some commentators described as a novel idea.
They appeared to have suggested that, with the continuing exodus of Anguillians to live in various parts of England -that the UK Government should somehow provide assistance for them if they preferred to remain at home. This would be an alternative for them rather than having to face cultural and climate shock – and other difficulties including finding jobs, housing and dealing with health issues, as well as the consequent loss of talent and social life in Anguilla.
The matter came up when Mrs. Richardson-Hodge made reference to some of those and other related issues. Replying, Mr. Connor said in part:
“This is a conversation that the Government of Anguilla can have with the UK Government. They can look to see that, over the last couple of years, how many Anguillians have migrated to England – whether it is from 2017 after Hurricane Irma. The fact is that for every Anguilla who leaves here and goes to England, and gets support from the British Government, it is better if that support is given here. It is a bit like after the volcano eruption in Montserrat where half the population went to Britain and the majority stayed there…
“I think that Britain can say if, over the last couple of years, 500 or 1,000 Anguillians, their families and children, have moved here, it is not in the best interest of Anguilla’s development if Anguillians are leaving. Mind you, there are other Caribbean nationals who are prepared to come to Anguilla. But it is something different about the nationals of Anguilla. Their heritage is here and I think they have a much more commitment and passion for their island. So when people have to pick up and go it is not the best thing.”
The Leader of the Opposition responded: “You have made a very significant and interesting point, Cardie. Anguillians have the opportunity to relocate to the UK as British Overseas Territory Citizens and to benefit from whatever assistance they can get there. So, is it not better for that kind of assistance, on UK soil, to be available in Anguilla to help retain talent? Because my biggest concern is what has been taking place over the last number of years…There has been an exodus of our Anguillians to different parts of the world – the US, the UK, etc.
“My concern is when are we going to get back to a position where we are welcoming our people back? And what is going to be left to welcome them back to? Because we have to make life liveable in Anguilla for our people to stay – for our young people to return and remain in Anguilla; for them to become educated; receive whatever qualifications, then come back and invest time and energy in rebuilding the country of their birth, their parents’ birth or whatever it is. And so there is a lot of work to do beyond where we now have. It takes having foresight; being where we are; seeing where we are going to end up; and what we have to do to retain our local talent that has gone overseas. Every district, every community, can tell you about whole families that have migrated to the UK, the US and various other places.”
Mr. Connor observed: “That, again, is something that we, as the Opposition, can probably look to reach out and see what facts and figures we can come up with and make that case. I would like to think that the Government of Anguilla should listen to us and pick sense out of nonsense – and there must be some sense. But, on a serious note, that is something because if unemployed Anguillians leave and go to England, the British Government has to look after them there; find homes for them; look after their children; and make sure they have some money.
“So why not find a way of saying to Anguillians: ‘We will put in a system where you are better suited at home – because there is where you prefer to be.’ And winter in England, and anywhere for that matter, can be a very hard time – and during the long wintery days you get homesick for the sunshine. Our island has 33 pristine beaches, and sunlight 365 days of the year, but that comes as at a cost as we really want to make it enjoyable for the people who live here and not just as a holiday destination.”