KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – An article in the Toronto Star newspaper last November that asked if this country was the worst place on earth to be a woman in unlikely to affect tourist arrivals from Canada, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Wednesday.
According to the article, in the last decade 4,500 Vincentians sought asylum in Canada. Most of the applicants were women claiming domestic and other forms of abuse here.
This country, of 106,000 residents, joined Hungary, China, Namibia, Colombia, and Mexico, as one of the top 10 nations from which refugee claims to Canada are made, outnumbering Indian and its 1.2 billion residents and Pakistan’s 187 million.
Gonsalves said that while foreign journalists write about this country, potential visitors also seek other information.
“I myself don’t think that the article in the Toronto Star would have caused problem for us with tourists from Canada. People are more sophisticated when they are going to visit places. We have just seen, for instance, the regard in in which Travel+Leisure Magazine and CNN hold St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is fifth among nine destinations on CNN’s “World’s top destinations for 2012” and third among 12 destinations listed by Travel+Leisure.
And, on Friday, the New York Times listed St. Vincent 17th among “the 45 places to go in 2012”.
Gonsalves further said that the Wall Street Journal in July said that the resort golf course in Canouan was among the top ten in the world.
“So, there are some real assets here. What we have to watch, in my view, on the tourism thing from a behavioural standpoint, is the issue of violence in the community and violence against tourists, robbery of tourists, the problems of the yachtees being robbed and issue if the place is too nasty. That is why we have to do better in cleaning up Kingstown,” he said.
“Sometimes, a journalist can write something overseas with a particular bent but people who read make their judgements and then people coming here, they go to travel agents, they read on the Internet,” Gonsalves said.
“There are all sorts of things. There are different ways in which they make up their minds. And, of course, what humbugs tourists coming here is simply the hassle of coming to St. Vincent by air,” he further said.
Gonsalves said that the hassle will be “greatly reduced” in early 2014 when the international airport at Argyle is expected to become operational.
Fair to revoke bogus citizenship
Meanwhile, while Gonsalves said that it is only fair that citizens, including Vincentians, who deceive Canadian officials in acquiring citizenship should lose that status if found out.
Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister, Jason Kenney said in December that Canada was investigating 6,500 people from more than 100 countries for fraudulently attempting to gain citizenship or maintain permanent resident status there.
Gonsalves, a lawyer, said his government discusses immigration issues with the Canadian government on an on-going and they know that his government is not party to bogus application by Vincentians.
He said that if a Vincentian loses his or her Canadian citizenships because it was gained through deception, there is little that Kingstown can do about it.
Gonsalves further stated that one couldn’t expect to retain Vincentian citizenship if it is proven that the status was gained through deception.
He said there were cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where persons were denied Vincentian citizenship – even when married to Vincentian nationals – because the state had sufficient evidence that the marriage was one of convenience.