Notes From a Native Son: An Open Door Immigration Policy Can Also be Letting in Trojan Horses

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

The recent showdown in Southern Algeria with Jihadist militants has shown once more that globalisation is not just an economic phenomenon, but once that crosses religious, ethnic, cultural and other social conflicts… Globalisation is more so about the movements of people, of the shift of world-leading thinkers and artistes – and the super-rich – to places that previous generations could only think of.

However, this mass movement of people is not just the smooth shift that most liberals would have us believe. It is also about Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilisation theory. Although heavily criticised, at least on one point Huntington was right: the more we become globalised on a macro level, the more conflicts there are – and will be – at a micro level.

Recently at a diner party of a small group of Barbadians, men and women, all of whom came to Britain in the late 1950s and 60s, one woman, who came as a young teenager in the 1960s, said that she had a perception that racial conflict in Britain was getting much worse. It was an incredibly perceptive observation. This is also my experience, as someone who had actually seen in shop windows in Kensal Rise in North West London advertisements for rooms saying: No blacks, no Irish, no dogs.

Even then the racial tension that is felt every time we leave our homes was not as explosive as it now is – whatever the liberal voice may say. Before he left office, Fred Greaves published a superb Green Paper on immigration, which was quietly kicked in to the long grass. I firmly believe that in time, future generations of Barbadians will come to regret this ill-thought out decision by our current political masters. It was also a huge insult to Fred Greaves, whose style may not be to everyone’s taste, but whose integrity as a public servant could not be questioned.

However, it is important to play the ball and not the man, and the issues raised in the immigration Green Paper are crucial that speak right to the issue of Barbadian-ness and what it means to be a Barbadian. Once we have determined the question of who are we; unless we know who we are and the vision of what we want to achieve, then the future will remain foggy and uncertain.

Are We Alone?
We can draw on a number of other examples of how other nations have integrated their new citizens and residents, from the way the Germany treated the Turks as ‘guest workers’, denying them citizenship; the way Central Americans treated people from the English-speaking Caribbean as ‘aliens’, again refusing to allow generations of ‘Caribbean’ citizens in Costa Rico, Nicaragua, and others from voting, to the way the US treated pre-war Japanese, the history of immigration is dotted with numerous examples of inhumanity.

Then, we have more recent movements such as the UK, France, Canada, and others, who have given full citizenship to new comers, after a long and protracted struggle; then there is the US, which gives citizenship, but with conditions; and, the Dutch, who opted to prevent large concentrations of the Moluccans. The reality is that like Don Blackman said years ago, demographics change everything and if the Barbados you want to experience is the one you knew and loved, then how the nation changes is centrally important. Put simply, it is not in the remit of politicians to enter treaties or agreements, nor of civil servants to grant work permits to people who are not like us. Although Barbados has a long history of immigration and emigration, the new net inflow can put enormous strain on jobs, social services, housing health care, transport and, in time, make demands on our society that are not acceptable. We may find ourselves celebrating religious Holy Days that do not somehow fit in with our traditions, or public signs in languages that we do not recognise, or New Barbadians having schools that teach young people from the earliest age that they are different and better than the native people.

In time, this exceptionalism will lead to contempt and then to violence. We only have to look to Bradford in the North of England, or Whitechapel in London, or Durban in South Africa or the suburbs in Paris, or Mombasa in Kenya, to see an example of how ‘strangers’ can transform entire areas.

In Britain we have seen the same changes with the Caribbean community: Brixton in South London, which is like little Kingston, Norbury, a few miles away, like little Georgetown, Reading is like little Bridgetown.
The point I am trying to make is not that change is not good, or that ‘diversity’ is not something we should welcome, rather, it is that unless the people have endorsed the changes somewhere down the line they could lead to all kinds of trouble. In other words, it is not for politicians to change the make-up of our society without consultation.

Population Growth:
There must also be a national conversation about reproduction rates, given the expanding population and in particular the growing number of people per square mile. In 1931, the population was 156,312, which grew to 192,800 in 1946, and it was felt then that the island was overcrowded; by 1960, it had grown to 232,327, and it is now between 280,000 and 300,000 – no one is certain.

By any measure it is too much for an island just 166 sq miles; this means we must give serious consideration to the size of families, and, even more urgently, the number of dependants we allow in on the ticket of a single provider. Can we continue to allow New Barbadians to have families of seven and eight children, with dependant elderly parents and arranged marriages with partners coming from outside the Caricom/CSME region? Such demographic changes are storing up enormous social problem within the next generation or two.

It would be irresponsible for our current leaders, based on a flawed liberal/social democratic model of social, religious and ethnic integration, to impose on future generations of young Barbadians a culture that is completely alien to anything in their grand national tradition.
It is flattering to think that people from all over the world think our island home is a wonderful place to settle. But at what price? I often wonder if I were English if I would tolerate the way Britain has been transformed over the last fifty years.

There is nothing universal or compelling about such developed nation models of diversity, and although they may work in a certain way in great cities – London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto – that does not mean they will work equally tolerably in small island-states. Further, there is no objective evidence that such an integrative model works in reality in any city at all, certainly not in London.

A number of social factors work to hide the flaws and tensions in such a model. First, often when minorities have the numbers that they can form communities within communities and they withdraw from mixing with people from outside their groups, apart from work and the public space. Not even in places of worship, as Caribbean Anglicans have been finding out to their cost since the 1950s.

One observation I often make, which brings a smile to my face, is that though the majority of Irish and Polish in London are Roman Catholics, they attend service in the same churches at different time. If the Catholics go to morning mass on Sundays, the Polish go to evening mass. I also remember spending one Xmas at a guest house in Rockley, owned by a retired optician, and overheard his house guests talking about Barbadians in a rather disparaging way. The assumption was made that because I lived in London I was no longer a Barbadian.

Northern Ireland stands as a good example of how two communities with a common Christian culture, separated only by Protestantism and Catholicism, yet for over forty years have been rioting in the streets and murdering each other because of the perception of being disadvantaged by either group. It is generally estimated that by 2050 the world population will grow by 50 per cent, from just over six billion to over nine billion. So, it is fair to assume, that Barbados, with a population of between 280,000 and 300,000, will grow by between 140,000 and 150,000, giving us a population density of between 1687 people per square mile and 1807. By any reckoning those figures are huge, making us one of the top ten most densely populated nations on earth.

I believe tough restrictions should be put on all non-Caricom immigrants in the first year, with no benefits payable under any condition and the head of the household having to pay the cost of all state benefits, including health and education. After the first year, benefits will be incremental, depending on the number of people in the household working and their contributions to national insurance and property tax.

I believe that one must be born a Barbadian to be eligible to be a member of parliament or to hold the highest offices of state, a restriction the US imposes only on the president, but there should be other offices. We also have to consider the technical difference between right of residence, citizenship and nationality, along with the right to vote if one is resident overseas and to hold dual nationality – Australia/US/Trinidad/Guyana (at one point)overseas voting, taxation, dual nationality.

Immigrants do not just pack their suitcases of clothing and travel, they bring with them a hidden baggage, the invisible cultural beliefs and values, that will, in time reveal themselves. So, although someone may, for example, come from the backwoods of Africa or the tribal lands of Pakistan, or the home counties of England, to a small island-state with its own inward-looking values, in time the New Barbadians will want to assert themselves – certainly, if not the first generation, then the following ones.

They too want to be proud of their heritage, of their ethnicity, of  their religion, of where they came from, just as black Barbadians want to assert their Africanity, and white people their European-ness. With good fortune, these different pathways could merge in a hybridity that defines what it means to be a Barbadian, not the cultural illiteracy that says that Admiral Nelson’s statute should not stand in the centre of Bridgetown because it mis-represents us. No, on the contrary, Barbadian culture is made up of the Irish and Scots and Welsh and English and African – all worked in some way in the burning heat to turn the wildland of Los Barbadoes in to a most habitable place. However, since constitutional independence, Barbadians are in danger of losing faith in our major institutions, including the educational system, the courts and the police, to take further risks with New Barbadians corrupting their way in to the very heart of the nation.

As a nation, we have not done a cost/benefit analysis of ethnic and religious diversity, nor indeed the social policy implications of this radical demographic change. Historically, Barbadians have always been close to some Guyanese, Kittitians, St Lucians and Dominicans, but we share a lot historically and culturally with these nations. We also have to worry about our national reputation, as the Canadians have warned us, and not allow the wealthy to hide their money offshore in our country by being tax fugitives. The rich and famous seeking refuge in our island home must be open and transparent with their home-based tax authorities – and also with the Barbados authorities. We as native Barbadians, need to reclaim our island home. This is an issue that should be at the heart of the general election campaign.


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29 Comments on “Notes From a Native Son: An Open Door Immigration Policy Can Also be Letting in Trojan Horses”

  1. David January 25, 2013 at 1:27 AM #

    BU agrees with most of the message here. Of course the immediate concern is that an open immigration policy flourished under the Arthur administration.


  2. Yardbroom January 25, 2013 at 4:32 AM #

    Hi Hal,
    Quote: “Put simply, it is not the remit of politicians to enter treaties on agreements, nor civil servants to grant work permits to people who are not like us.”

    Although There is merit in “some” of your suggestions and I am not angry…the above concerns me.

    If not politicians or civil servants, may I ask who should sign the agreements? As someone who at first hand had observed the treatment of Turks by the Germans in Germany during the mid 1960s and seen the signs – early 1960s- in England to which you refer. Not the dogs element, just no children, Irish or coloureds.

    Living and working in England at the time, “now” I cannot agree with your statement.


  3. William Skinner January 25, 2013 at 8:06 AM #

    ” This is an issue that should be at the heart of the general election campaign.” (Hal Austin)
    A very enlightening piece. However, Mr. Austin can rest assured, there will be no such discussion in the next elections. The intellectually bankrupt BLP/DLP collective would sell Barbados to the highest bidders and therefore ignore the trends/concerns which he so accurately highlighted.


  4. islandgal246 January 25, 2013 at 8:20 AM #

    A fellow immigrant is writing this? From time beginning mankind has traveled and settled in new lands. It is the nature of mankind and it will continue legally and illegally as long as the grass looks greener over the fence. I agree that if someone is immigrating to a new country and a new culture that they should embrace it, but can it be forced if they didn’t? Governments can make it more difficult for people to immigrate but will that stop the illegals? Many will come as tourists and then disappear, how can they stop that? On a small island nation like Barbados with so many unprotected bays where fishing is the livelihood of many, I am sure many illegal people and things come ashore. If Barbados were to adopt a close doors policy will they like that done to them by other countries? The problem arises when governments change laws to accommodate new immigrants and their cultures.


  5. David January 25, 2013 at 8:40 AM #


    You are correct but there is the benefit of hindsight after decades of immigrant flows and the impact on societies both economic and social. Should we not make decisions based on the learnings now?

    For example there was not a problem 15 or 20 years ago of southbound capital flows into our offshore jurisdictions. With the changing economic and geopolitical dynamic read OECD this has changed.

    Nothing remains the same.


  6. millertheanunnaki January 25, 2013 at 9:14 AM #

    @ islandgal246 | January 25, 2013 at 8:20 AM |

    IG I wish to identify with you on this one. Having lived in other countries I am a bit wary of words laced with hints of jingoism or xenophobia even if they might appear politically attractive and vote pulling to exploit the masses.
    Many immigrants are attracted to a country because of economic opportunities or the locals refuse to do certain jobs they find demeaning even if necessary to the maintenance and survival of the society. This kind of economic migration has been taking place since the heydays or golden age of Egypt; whether voluntarily or through forced migration as in the trans-Atlantic Triangular Trade.

    What Hal needs to comment on is the cultural enrichment and variegation of the socio-economic landscape that the UK, especially London, has undergone in the last 60 or so years. Without that ethnic and cultural mix from around the world the UK would just be a dull dreary culturally isolated place where bangers and mash would be the staple diet with its indigenous people tapping their feet to Morris dance music instead of Bob Marley “One Love”.

    But one thing that can be said about the ‘recent arrivals’ to Bim from the Indian sub-continent is their tenacity to move into and control the commercial life of the country making the blacks look like a bunch of educated servants for life.

    They have intelligently not used the illegal route to permanent residence but craftily utilise the contract of marriage to achieve their cultural objective. By not dipping in the local ethnic pool for marriage partners (whether of the mono or multi model) they bring in their spouses for their children from overseas through a contract of ‘arranged’ marriages where family planning through the use of contraceptives is taboo. Blacks on the other hand have been targeted for such population control despite negative growth overall in this ethnic segment. Pushing the widespread use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS (although welcome and can’t be gainsaid) also has a concomitant effect of preventing pregnancy as Nature would have it.

    With the law on their side and a pretense or keeping up of appearances of marital bliss and strong family ties how can the Immigration officials ever deny them entry or institute quotas.


  7. lawson January 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM #

    Economic immigration The head of the phalanx …get on it now before you are behind the curve and refugeed to death .Dont look at Canada for a shining example go down under


  8. Pachamama January 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM #

    We have some points of disagreement that we may get back to later. However, our initial thoughts are that your point of departure is based on a misreading of happening in Egypt, Mali and the wider North African – Sahara regions.


  9. Enuff January 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM #

    Hal did you analyse our immigration data to see where the immigrants are coming from and at what levels?


  10. Jack Bowman January 25, 2013 at 2:24 PM #

    “Although Barbados has a long history of immigration and emigration, the new net inflow can put enormous strain on …” (all kinds of stuff).

    What are the numbers? Neither the OP nor any of the commenters has given any numbers on the “net inflow”.

    What are the numbers? Data, or it didn’t happen. In the absence of numbers, everyone (most especially the OP) is just another know-nothing pissing in the wind.


  11. rubes January 25, 2013 at 6:23 PM #

    my parents came to canada as refugees having endured concentration camps. they insisted their children become true canadians, my neighbours on either side in canada are korean, the parents dont speak very much english, the kids however are true canadians having embraced the culture.this is what barbados needs to strive for in its immigration policies.but not my business not a citizen have no say


  12. lawson January 25, 2013 at 9:00 PM #

    I came to Canada as an immigrant with my family in the late fifties,we had no money, no family except one uncle, back then you had to get off the boat working, People would do anything than ask for one wanted the stigma of welfare or branded a malingerer. How times have changed. Its not what you can do for your country but what do you owe me. We change Canadian traditions to cater to the new immigrants, we allow people to play our legal system against us we allow our country to be systematically eroded from the one everyone wants to come to, into the mess lot of these people have come from. I like saying Merry Christmas, I dont need Sharia law to replace mine. I think you should have to work in the country and pay taxes for years before you are entitled to a pension Just because someone makes to your shores why do you have to keep them, its bizzare. In your policies Barbados customs and culture must come first and if immigrants dont like it dont come. A special dispensation should be granted to Barbadian scotsmen celebrating Robbie Burns day if they use pudding and souse instead of haggis


  13. Well Well January 25, 2013 at 9:43 PM #

    Is this the same Lawson an immigrant who thinss I should isolate my business to Barbados’ shores only??? shame on you!!!


  14. Well Well January 25, 2013 at 9:49 PM #

    Then we have the West Indian immigrants when they have spent years in Europe or North America think that no one else from the West Indies should be allowed to enter these countries and prosper. Some of them especially in Canada drink too much alcohol from LCBO.


  15. lawson January 25, 2013 at 9:50 PM #

    Assuming you do have some product worth buying what does that have to do with immigration ,customs and culture?????


  16. Well Well January 25, 2013 at 9:57 PM #

    Don’t care what u assume, you know what they say about ASS U ME.


  17. Well Well January 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM #

    Besides the articles relates to people looking for a better economy to immigrate to and prosper, recent statistics show Bajans are now running in droves because of the harsh economic conditions there, I was in Canada recently and saw at least four new families that left Bim because of continuing hardship. If you are thinking about what you can buy from me, i will have to refer you to your females relatives who have been selling such from 12th century to present.


  18. Konkieman January 25, 2013 at 10:47 PM #

    Lawson, I can identify with your experience. I moved to Canada in the early 80s with two suitcases of clothes, etc., an old guitar, and a head full of dreams. After nuff (10) years of night school and working my butt off, I started to experience success. Most importantly, other Canucks I was working with recognized my hard work and contribution to my new home.

    I never asked for any charity and I remember one of my bosses (a German immigrant himself) telling me I had the “immigrant mentality” and not to lose it.

    After 20 years, I moved to the US and came with the same mentality. I work now for a global company with many immigrants who contribute positively to society. It is the culture of the country that makes immigration a success or failure. If you let people in and then have a culture of resentment, newcomers will cluster together and remain separated from others. Micro cultures will result which does not benefit the country.


  19. lawson January 26, 2013 at 7:29 AM #

    Konkieman I agree dont give your culture away. I admire the German,work ethic if he saw you as a hard worker that is a great compliment, there have been other hard working immigrants that came to Canada in waves like the Vietnamese, Portuguese, Italian etc but in the last while we have a let in a mixed bag of people from criminals, and murders to the people who are assets to any country. I see a change coming for the good because even immigrants are starting to get upset that the system is getting fleeced and we are taking a harder stance. But like Barbados we are a nation of lawyers which makes it difficult .We had a boat of illegal immigrants ( who paid large sums) land in BC, lawyers lined up for their cases, its cost us millions looking after these people instead of sending them back while our elderly and war vets get short changed
    Being accepted as an immigrant to any country is not a right, and you better be willing to jump through hoops if you really want to live there , you know hoops like dont jump the que work, pay taxes, no criminal activity, those kind of things.


  20. David January 26, 2013 at 9:15 AM #


    Good points and one BU made earlier. What can Barbados learn from other countries when shaping building out our immigration policy/strategy. It is not enough to say that this has been a practice since Adam was a lad. Time enough has passed to establish what works.


  21. Hal Austin January 26, 2013 at 11:37 AM #

    @ Yardbroom

    The point I am trying to make is that politicians and civil servants cannot, and should not, make decisions that will transform irreversibly the demographics and culture of the nation.
    This is something that the people should decide; and if they agree, then that is that.
    But such decision have enormous repercussions on the rest of society. I have been involved in the British race relations industry since it was created by Jim Callaghan in 1968; I have also worked briefly for the Commission for Racial Equality and have been a reporter for arguably Britain’s most race conscious newspaper, the Daily Mail, for a number of years.
    From all this, I can say, speaking personally, that I do not like all the so-called cultural diversity that has taken place in Britain since that time.
    Ask the Fijians, or the Kenyans about the Somalis, or the Vancouveran about the Chinese, or the Sierra Leoneans about the Lebanese, the list is endless.
    Since the 1960s we all know how the Hispanics have transformed the demographics of the US; these are serious questions which should form part of the political debate.
    Buty in a culture dominated by political yaboo and vulgar abuse, rather than discussing ideas and policies, future generations of Barbadians may not thank us for this huge mistake.
    I too like cultural diversity, but I prefer cou cou to tikka masala, or dry spare ribs and egg fried rice. I prefer the church to the mosque, I do not see beauty in the burqa – even though as a young man I went out with a Tunisians.
    As a people we must decide who and what we want to be. What is wrong with wanting to be a Barbadian in Barbados?
    Is that too much to ask?


  22. islandgal246 January 26, 2013 at 11:48 AM #

    I love curry, I love Thai food, I love chinese food, I love creole food which is a mixture of all these influences. Life is like a rainbow of colours and life will be very dull and boring without rainbows! The problem with some people they are so afraid of change that they prefer to drink and eat the same thing all their life. There is good food and bad food as well as good people and bad people. As long as there are humans on this earth they will travel to far off lands to seek their fortunes.


  23. islandgal246 January 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM #

    What is the difference between a nun’s habit and a burka? If a woman’s /man’s dress threatens the security of a country then laws must be passed to solve that problem. If I want to go to the east and was requested to dress like the locals by the host country, well it is my choice to visit or not to visit. The same should go for those people from those regions visiting the west. When we try to bend the rules that is where the problems begin.


  24. Hal Austin January 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM #

    @ Oh Islandgal don’t be so simple. I am not talking about other ethnic dishes, I love Chinese, I am talking about changing the national dish, which is an expression of culture; this is too simple.
    People do travel, I did in the 1960s. But it was not my intention to takeover Britain, nor that of any of my colleagues. I travelled for opportunities.
    As yo burqas versus nuns’ habits, this is part of the conversation; this is what France and Switzerland have done. Should we secularise public space, stop everyone from wearing burqas, habits, dog collars, etc?
    How would this impact on human rights? All I am calling for is a national conversation. I am not laying down the law.


  25. lawson January 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM #

    If four people in burkas showed up at a bank I would be more worried than four nuns showing up You go to there country you follow the rules they come to your country and they will take your rules to court


  26. Yardbroom January 26, 2013 at 2:35 PM #

    Hi Hal Austin, January 26, 2013 @11:37AM

    You wrote, quote: ” @ Yardbroom The point I am trying to make is that politicians and civil servants cannot, and should not, take decisions that will transform irreversibly the demographics and culture of a nation. This is something that the people should decide, and if they agree, that is that.”

    I understand your point. During 2008 here on BU ( Barbados Underground) several topics were written on immigration to Barbados. So much so that one eminent person from Guyana now living in Barbados suggested that we wanted to engage in ETHNIC CLEANSING. I recall Senator Mc Clean and Freundel Stuart later gave a balanced, proportionate and restrained view on immigration to Barbados.

    The problem I have is when the people are asked, will it be a referendum and how will the question be phrased. Do you want Muslims, Whites, Blacks etc in Barbados. Even then Civil Servants or Politicians will have to put the results into Law.

    Suppose whites in the UK were asked. Do you want Blacks to immigrate and work in England? What do you think would have been their response. History, past deeds and the Commonwealth would have mattered little.

    I am aware that certain groups because of cultural traits can put black Barbadians at a disadvantage because of the way they live. Unfortunately Barbadians have always fallen prey to the phone call, when Laws are broken at the behest of so called important people. . . we will pay a heavy price for such deceit.

    Our experiences in Europe sometimes allows us to see a picture on a wider canvas. However, “we” cannot with honesty and integrity say the type of people we want in the land of our birth on only the people should decide basis. Having lived and earned a living for a great part of our lives in England & Europe. . in which the people did not decide.

    I say that as someone who has had to make decisions as to if people should or should not stay in the UK. On my part it is a question of honesty and integrity, from which I cannot now deviate.


  27. Enuff January 26, 2013 at 9:25 PM #

    The UK government, based on Hal’s position on culture, should ban Notting HIll Carnival, which would make MOST Daily Mail readers tres happy.


  28. Hal Austin January 27, 2013 at 3:20 AM #

    @ Enuff
    The government, Greater London Council and Kensington and Chelsea have tried every year to control the carnival – and have done sine 1975, the year of the first riot.
    Ken Livingstone, the great leftie, tried moving it to Hyde Park, in previous years; in previous years they have tried moving it to Wormwood Scrubs sn even banning it all together.
    Even now if two or three young black men are heading to the carnival they are stopped by police two, three, ten miles away and searched as gangsters.
    In fact, a former chairman of the carnival committee, a Barbadian, is at present visiting Barbados to see an ill relative.
    Maybe you can get him to give a public talk about the history of carnival.
    Fleet Street sees carnival as a criminal event, not street theatre.
    Carnival is popular because of the people who support it, not the authorities.
    Just look at the condition imposed by the local authority on people who want to set up stalls.


  29. Jack Bowman January 28, 2013 at 12:58 PM #

    The OP says: “What is wrong with wanting to be a Barbadian in Barbados? Is that too much to ask?”

    And to get back to the only question that matters: what are the numbers? Still, days later, neither the OP nor any of the commenters have given any numbers on what the OP calls the “new net inflow”.

    What is the magnitude of the “new net inflow” into Barbados? Indeed, is there a “net inflow” into Barbados? What are the numbers?

    In the absence of actual data, the OP and all commenters are, again, just pissing in the wind. Only someone with the mind of a child would even try to base an argument on piss in the wind.

    What are the numbers? To quote the OP: “is that too much to ask?”


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