Became new DFP political leader in 2021, Bernard Hatault
Became new DFP political leader in 2021, Bernard Hatault

On July 19th 2023, the United Kingdom took swift and decisive action to impose visa restrictions on Dominican nationals.

According to the UK, anyone who booked a flight after 10 am that fateful day now needs a visa to enter the United Kingdom, whether for a visit or in transit. Those who booked flights before that date have a four-week grace period within which they can enter that country without a visa.

The reaction has been immediate from many organizations, including government officials and political parties, primarily because the UK cited concerns over Dominica's Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) as the main reason for the visa requirement.

On Thursday, July 20th, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit assured the public that this move did not affect relations between the two countries. He further promised that changes are being made to the CBI programme to align with the UK's and other nations' requirements.

However, political parties in Dominica have attacked his statement and that of the United Kingdom.

The Dominica Freedom Party leader, Bernard Hurtault, urged the government to take more firm steps to address the country's CBI programme.

"We call on the incumbent government to take immediate action to address all the concerns raised by the UK and other nations about the CBI programme," Hurtault stated. "This should include implementing robust regulations, conducting thorough background checks on applicants and ensuring the programme's integrity."

Hurtualt, and the DFP, by extension, firmly believe that restoring Dominica's reputation and credibility as a responsible international partner while safeguarding the interest of its citizens is of utmost importance.

"Government should initiate constructive dialogue with UK authorities to demonstrate these fixes and seek a resolution that would allow for lifting the travel restrictions on Dominican nationals," he said.

Regardless of the strong words, and even stronger call to action, Hurtault has reservations that it may be too late for Dominica to redeem itself.

"The DFP fears that the international community has lost all confidence in the integrity and responsibility of this government, and the calls for conversations and negotiations may well be too late," he added.

The DFP leader called on the wider public to use this opportunity to stand together and take the necessary action to see what he describes as a necessary change in government.

"It is clear to us, the DFP, that the only way to establish the integrity and progress of the CBI programme, and of the national progress in general, is for all Dominicans to rally to replace this careless and exploitative government," Hautault said. "The wounds are too deep, and the damage is too severe now to consider any alternative."

The political leader of Team Unity Dominica, TUD, Carlos Charles, also added his voice to a change in government over this fiasco.

"The entry visa is a matter of great concern," he said. "This should give us a cause to pause. We need to decide how far and for how long we should let this go on. We must decide whether we work collectively to restore the dignity of Dominica's sovereignty or whether we just class this episode as another political event of 'us against them'."

Charles further stated that if a TUD government were in power, the country's citizenship by investment programme would be noticeably different.

"All this mess will come to an abrupt end if TUD is honoured to serve as government," its political leader promised. "Under a Team Unity Dominica government, transparency would be restored under CBI, and it will be phased out completely. International norms and standards will guide TUD's External Citizenship Initiative, ECI."

Charles describes the CBI programme as a runaway train, having encountered so many issues and begs the question of the value and symbolic meaning of the country's passport.

"It is not acceptable that our passports be so recklessly and frequently placed in the hands of so many questionable characters," Charles said. What is the cost of this decision by the UK on our people? Did we not see this coming, and what will we do about this now?"