By Uglobal Staff
Caribbean countries have come under increased EU pressure to ban all Russians and Belarusians from their CBI programs ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February. While most Caribbean nations such as Dominica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis have toed the EU line, St. Lucia has taken a middle path, choosing to ban only those Russians who have been named in the international sanctions list. According to the St. Lucian government, their different approach is aimed at avoiding discrimination against innocent people who have nothing to do with the ongoing war in Europe.
Keith Isaac, who is an immigration attorney for the Floissac Fleming & Associates in St. Lucia, tells Uglobal that he believes that the tact taken by his country is the right approach; it could also lead to less strain on CBI programs that play a vital role in the economies of Caribbean nations.
What’s your reaction to the government of St. Lucia stance on this issue?
I believe that the government’s stance is to be commended and is quite sound. An approach which seeks to “blanket ban” approximately 150 million people from access to CBI programs on the basis of the actions of a few, in my opinion, is archaic and outright discriminatory. Whilst my colleagues and I in St. Lucia strongly oppose Russia’s actions, these actions are not the actions of the collective population of Russia and Russian diaspora. Provided that our program continues to operate on a foundation of comprehensive due diligence, I see no harm whatsoever in allowing Russian citizens to obtain citizenship. Further, I see no utility is restricting Russian access to our programs as the potential Russian brain drain which would likely occur due to the max exodus of Russia’s citizens from the country would likely harm the government’s regime as opposed to empower it.
Do you think St. Lucia has taken a high risk and might face sanctions itself by taking a different approach?
Whilst the approach placed St. Lucia under the global microscope and subject to scrutiny, I do not believe that the welcoming of Russian citizens who are not associated with the Russian government and its sanctioned oligarchs would lead to the sanctioning of St. Lucia. Generally, sanctions act as penalties to punish and deter behavior by people or countries which are deemed as wrong. St. Lucia, like every other sovereign state, has the right to decide who can and cannot gain its citizenship, and the manner by which said citizenship may be obtained. Provided that St. Lucia’s CBI does not accept sanctioned Russian nationals and persons connected to the current government regime, St. Lucia would have done nothing wrong. Sanctions, therefore, in my opinion, are extremely unlikely and if imposed would be dangerously unjust and would undermine St. Lucia’s sovereign rights as an independent state.
Do you think other Caribbean should follow St. Lucia’s example?
Whilst I do believe that other Caribbean CBI offering countries should follow St. Lucia’s example, I understand why they are quite reluctant too. Several of our neighboring countries rely quite heavily on CBI with some countries amassing over 25% of their GDP through CBI schemes alone. Therefore, the risk of scrutiny, potential loss of visa privileges and potential decrease in revenue from CBI in the midst of sustained inflation and rising public costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic is sadly too much to bear for many of our Caribbean colleagues. Therefore, the decision to simply “fall in line” and suspend Russians without more, whilst unfortunate, is understanding when addressing the issue from the eyes of these nations.
What are you hearing from your Russian clients?
Whilst we had already began processing Russian applications prior to the invasion of Ukraine, there was a massive increase in numbers at the beginning of March as all other Caribbean CBI offering nations had suspended applications from Russia nationals approximately two weeks before St. Lucia. In that two week period, we witnessed a real desperation on the parts of our clients to submit their applications as quickly as possible as there was a real likelihood that, eventually, St. Lucia’s government would reluctantly come to the decision to suspend the program to Russian citizens. Since March 18, I have been in contact with several of our Russian clientele regarding the government’s reluctantly made suspension. Whilst they have been naturally disappointed with the decision, it was expected by most. Therefore, our clients remain interested in the program. Recent events have led them all to believe that, regardless of the outcome of current events in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia, a second citizenship is now a need as opposed to luxury. As such, the majority of clients have committed to resuming the application process once the current suspension is lifted.
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