Caribbean islanders acquiring British passports
OLVESTON, Montserrat - (AP) -- British Caribbean islanders flocked
to passport offices Tuesday to apply for British passports under a new
law that will
open work opportunities, ease travel restrictions in Europe and end charges of ``second-class citizenship.''
Many in struggling Caribbean economies said they would search for jobs in Britain.
Others said they would use the British passports for travel to
countries such as the United States, which does not require visas of British
holders but does require them for people holding passports particular to the territories, such as the Turks and Caicos Islands.
''For many years, I wanted to travel to the United States,''
said Willie O'Garro, 60, of Montserrat. ``I haven't been in touch with
my family in the Bronx for
years, but I know they are still alive.''
Currently, with his Montserrat passport, he would need to travel to the nearest U.S. Embassy, in Barbados, to apply for a visa.
The British Overseas Territories Bill, passed by the British
Parliament in February, restores full British citizenship to the people
of 12 overseas territories
after nearly 20 years. About 150,000 people are affected.
In the Caribbean area, the new law applies to Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos and Montserrat.
By noon, more than 100 people had applied for British passports in Montserrat, said government spokesman Elijah Silcott.
Sylvester Allen, 30, said he would use the passport to search
for work. In 1995, Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano sprang to life
and destroyed the
capital, Plymouth, and the only industries. Half the 11,000 residents have left.
''The economy isn't so hot right now,'' Allen said. ``All my family is in Britain so I am planning to make a big move.''