BU received an email from Peter Wickham in response to a solicitation email which we sent on the weekend that detailed our concerns on the illegal immigrant question in Barbados. We wish to acknowledge Adrian Hinds’s email as well. We have always held Peter Wickham in high regard. We believe that he is a bright young man passionate about his profession and this is manifested when he shares his opinions on many issues of public interest. Peter is entitled to his opinion in this case, no doubt flavoured by the fact that he earns a living plying the Caribbean islands. After reading his article, which we understand was submitted to the Nation, we are very disappointed with the lukewarm arguments which Peter has put forward. It seems to us that he has resorted to a ‘cop-out’ position by labeling all of us as being xenophobic and racists.
We have critique Peter’s article below titled, Racism and Xenophobia (We have received Peter’s permission to publish the article on BU). Please note that we have divided the article into quotes with BU responses immediately below.
As racial tension increases in Guyana, it is inevitable that the issue of illegal (and legal) immigration into Barbados would once more surface. In this instance, those who oppose the trend altogether have joined with those who would prefer to see smaller numbers here for limited time periods, to call on the new Thompson administration to manage if not curtail the influx of migrant labour. One recent contributor to a well-known web site that promotes frank and open discussion on Barbadians issues recently suggested that “Barbados needs to be proactive from now on this matter” and urged PM Thompson to “take decisions to ensure that the stable climate which Barbados has enjoyed over its post-colonial existence continues.”
Peter why did you not name Barbados Underground in your article? Afterall you quoted from our blog, highlighted above in red. Are the Nation Newspaper columnists being censored from naming BU or BFP in their articles?
This expression appears to mimic the views expressed by a gentleman who wrote this author last week and asked if I still support a liberal approach to immigration now that racial tensions have increased in Guyana. It is clear that thinking which associates increased racial tension with the insertion of large numbers of Indo Guyanese into Barbados is gaining currency and it is apparently also widely believed that the new Thompson administration will take a less liberal attitude towards immigration matters. This confluence of assumptions is most unfortunate and requires urgent attention, which should begin with an interrogation of the Thompson administration’s attitude towards the CSME and more specifically the free movement of labour.
Is it not amazing that when Barbadians or locals in a country express concern about the impact of large immigrant inflows on our demographics, they are labeled as being xenophobic and racist? The thinking offered by Peter is that “the confluence of assumptions is most unfortunate” and he has somehow applied a fuzzy logic by linking the growing concerns about the open door immigration policy of Barbados to CSME and the freedom of labour which goes along with it. The fact that there is rising concerns about the impact of immigration by the world’s developed countries appears to be lost on Peter. This is the point which Barbados Underground is being attacked for repeatedly making. It is not only about the high immigrant labour in Barbados, it is the swollen illegal immigrant population which has given rise to concern as well. At BU we have made the point that in Guyana and Trinidad we have two countries which we can use as case studies to help our policymakers understand how a multi-ethic society can become optimally cohesive. We are making this point against the background of a large illegal and legal Indo-Guyanese population in Barbados. Peter please stop with the intellectual arguments and deal with the real concerns of real Barbadians. By the way Peter did you read in yesterday’s newspapers about the T&T authorities arresting twenty illegal Guyanese immigrants and deporting them? Even Trinidad with a multi-ethnic demographic profile and greater resources than Barbados see the need to be aggressive with the enforcement of immigration rules.
Careful analysis of the DLP’s manifesto and its platform during the last election does not reveal any open hostility to the CSME and since the DLP has assumed office, little has happened to convince any right-thinking person that this administration plans to change course in matters relating to the CSME. In the last few days, Sen. Hon. Maxine McClean hinted at the likelihood of imposing regulations relating to immigration; however, it can be recalled that her predecessor made similar statements and little changed. There was also a clear statement in the throne speech that government policy would seek to ensure that illegal migration was not used as a cover for the exploitation of workers and this could be interpreted in some quarters as “illiberal“. Fortunately, this position could also be interpreted liberally as a measure which is necessary to accompany an anticipated influx of foreign workers.
Peter shame on you! Are you calling Minister McClean a vacillator? We are willing to place a bet that the Minister will make a difference. Her background suggests that she is a doer and not a talker. We also know that her background suggests that she is a Caribbean person but that does not absolve her from ensuring that the borders of Barbados are protected. Home drums beat first. Is it not ironic that Obama in a speech after his Wisconsin victory last night made the point that he will be introducing legislation to censor citizens who exploit undocumented workers? Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Apart from the DLP’s attitude, there is a misconception that the racial tension present in Guyana would be exported to Barbados if our community becomes multi-racial. To my mind this is both illogical and disparaging, since a suggestion of this nature implies that Indo-Guyanese are genetically predisposed towards racial disharmony and while I have not read the book by Dr. Keane Gibson, I am confident that this was not what she was suggesting.
Peter Wickham, as a political scientist, dependent on research to perform analysis and make incisive conclusions, we are flabbergasted that you have not referred to any research which critiques the many issues which impact multi-ethnic societies. Specifically we can start close to home by examining the Trinidad and Guyana situations. To glibly offer an opinion to the contrary places you, Peter, in a secondary position to Dr. Gibson and others who have taken the time to research this matter. Examine the research, maybe you can start by calling your former UWI colleague Dr. Kean Gibson and help BU to bring clarity and awareness to this rising concern coming forth from ordinary Barbadians. While we are it, why have you disguised the questions in your recent surveys during the Barbados general election which spurned the opportunity to place a barometer on this issue for Barbadians?
Guyanese live in large communities all over the world and one can find significant pockets in Toronto, New York and London and to the best of my knowledge their presence has not contributed to racial disharmony in those places and there is no reason why we should expect a different impact here. Having said that, however, I do believe that I am one of few Barbadians who believes that we have nothing to fear from an influx of indo-Guyanese or indeed that there will be an influx. I continue to maintain that Barbadians are Xenophobic, which is not to say that we are racist. I have seen nothing here to suggest that we are, or behave in a manner that can be described as racist, but several statements made by Barbadians have convinced me that we are Xenophobic, which means that we might think that we have something to fear from large numbers of non-Barbadians coming to live here.
How can Barbadians be accused of being xenophobic when we have received St. Lucians, Vincentians, Dominicans and others who came to Barbados to harvest canes in the 60’s and 70’s, many of whom remained Barbados without any problems? Peter how can you draw parallels about what is happening in Barbados to the large cities of the world like New York, London and Toronto? We referred earlier to the fact that these same cities are now enforcing tighter immigration policies by safe guarding their borders should be instructive. What is wrong with Barbadians expressing concerns about our apparent open door immigration policy and slack enforcement practices.
Like racism, xenophobia is born out of ignorance; however xenophobia can more easily be addressed with public education and greater exposure. It is unfortunate that the CSME was not preceded by such a campaign and it is also unfortunate that after several years, the Caribbean media and corresponding cultural exchange has not sufficiently exposed us to each other. Notwithstanding, there should be no assumptions made that the peculiar conditions that exist in Guyana which are increasing racial tensions and making that country ungovernable, will be replicated in Barbados. Hopefully, we might soon have some discussion about the nature of the problem in Guyana, which could help us distinguish our situation from theirs.
Peter W Wickham (Wickham@sunbeach.net) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).
Help us Peter to educate and advocate on this issue. It is one that sets the emotions racing in many people. We have taken on the task of highlighting this issue but we need help from people like yourself. Are you able to shed the bias prism which you carry Peter for the bigger good? Your country needs you to rise above the intellectual rhetoric and as a leader in our country, you need to debate this issue with your usual passion and keen insight.