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Island Journeys: Navigating Migrant Challenges and Triumphs in Dominica- Peter Cuffy’s Story

In 1998, Peter Cuffy, a native of Dominica, embarked on a vacation to nearby Barbuda, seeking solace and respite from the challenges life had thrown his way. Little did he know that this trip would mark the beginning of an extraordinary journey.

“At the time, I was going through some difficulties in my life and my father said, ‘Maybe just come and just spend some time and relax,’ and the rest is history. Originally, when I left, it was just for a short while,” said Cuffy. Today, he is a respected teacher in Barbuda, a testament to the resilience that migration often demands.

For Cuffy, finding employment and later attaining residency was relatively easy. He initially extended his stay in Barbuda, later securing a work permit after finding employment at a nearby hotel. Language posed no barriers, as Barbudans spoke the same tongue as his homeland, allowing him to seamlessly assimilate into his new community, eventually finding love and starting a family. Back in the late ’90s, free movement policies between the small island member states were not yet in place, but Cuffy effortlessly navigated the system and made Barbuda his new home.

“I got an extension of the immigration status, and I applied to get the work permit,” said Cuffy. “It took me about what I think was a few days, because I received documentation from the hotel that I was hoping to be employed at, so the process was very simple.”

But Cuffy’s journey didn’t stop at employment. He became a pillar of his adopted home, dedicating his efforts to the betterment of the community. He runs a sports academy for youth while serving as the chairman for the Barbuda Red Cross.

His role during the evacuation efforts following Hurricane Irma in 2017 stands as a testament to his dedication. Cuffy was instrumental in assessing the damage while preparing residents to return to the island once it was safe. “I was always back and forth because of what I do. I was part of the teams that did most of the assessments. Myself and two other teachers also worked with the form five students to help guide them through the process of getting ready for their CXC exams,” he explained, highlighting his commitment to education and community welfare.

Even though Peter’s migration story was not consumed with challenges, his narrative underscores the fact that integration is still highly contextual and varies across countries. Still, successful integration is a dynamic and multi-directional process that involves mutual adaptation of migrants and of the host society, based on principles of protection of fundamental rights, respect, tolerance and non discrimination. As the International Organization for Migration (IOM) notes, integration is a multidimensional issue that covers migrant’s inclusion in economic, psychological, social, linguistic, navigational, and civic spheres, as well as empowering host communities and other local actors to receive and engage with migrants.