Those damned foreigners

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The government has changed the immigration law to allow the prime minister more discretion to decide whether or not to deport foreign wives and husbands married to Mauritians. He explained that this was about “protecting our citizens from ill-intentioned foreigners”.  

Of course this new-found appetite to save the innocent sons and daughters of the land from evil foreigners rings a little hollow when it comes from the same government that last year said it wanted to sell off Mauritian passports through a company, Henley and Partners, that admitted that its biggest clients were oligarchs and sanctions-dodgers from the ex-Soviet Union and the Middle East. These presumably were not the kind of “ill-intentioned foreigners”  that the government wanted to save Mauritians from. 

Nor presumably are the kind of foreigners that are buying up real estate in IRS schemes and getting residence permits in return. It’s no use pretending that everything is hunky-dory there either. Not when the government’s own Drugs Commission in July 2018 admitted that it had been informed by the Financial Intelligence Unit that was getting reports from the ICAC and the MRA of “(drug) traffickers from South Africa purchasing Integrated Resort Scheme Property”

And speaking of ill-intentioned foreigners, remember Alvaro Sobrinho? Has the irony been lost on anyone that the same government that today wants to keep the evil foreigners at bay, when Sobrinho showed up, it changed the law, re-engineered the board of the FSC, the president joined his NGO and top civil servants arranged for VIP treatment for him at the airport. Does the government really think that nobody has noticed that as soon as Sobrinho packed up and left the country, coincidence of coincidences, one of the largest IRS projects in the country in Balaclava went bankrupt too? Are these the foreigners that the government wants to protect the people against? Is it looking to get rid of the IRS schemes that no serious economist today is willing to defend anymore? Not a chance. 

The government also wants to attract people back from the diaspora, flattering them by saying that they are a “precious asset”. But should these assets acquire “assets” of their own in the form of a foreign spouse, then these should be left to the tender mercies of the Prime Minister’s Office. They are foreigners after all! 

If it had come from a different government, the argument would at least have seemed a little plausible. From this one, it seems a grotesque joke. The real lesson in all this seems to be that if you have the money, you can rob Mauritians, play around with their institutions, corrupt their politics and bureaucracy, destroy their national reputation abroad but, for heaven’s sake, don’t marry them!

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