Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown has issued a new mandate to members of the Immigration Reform Working Group – a mandate which focuses on a ‘principles first’ approach.

“All laws should be developed or based on sound principles,” explained Minister Brown. “That is why the creation of such principles must come before any amendments to legislation are made or even put forward. The principles I want to see embraced when it comes to immigration reform are ones rooted in a sense of justice for all parties within the context of ‘Bermudians coming first’ while also maintaining a framework that will foster continued growth in the business sector, using a friendly and accommodating approach.”

The group, which was formed in April 2016, was previously tasked with proposing amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956.

In a letter to the group’s members this week, the Minister stated the terms of reference for the group as the following:

  • Continue the work on the survey. It is important to obtain sound statistics in order to make effective decisions. (The survey is designed to collect data on mixed status families).
  • Recommend the principles by which new policies will effect legislation in relation to: mixed status families; additional categories of Permanent Resident certificates, if applicable; and additional categories of Bermudian status, if applicable.
  • Produce a final report by no later than 31st October 2017.

Mr Brown publicly thanked the Immigration Reform Work Group “for their participation over the past year”. “The group has worked really well together. Their input has been and continues to be invaluable,” he said. “The work to this point will certainly go a long way in accomplishing the reform of the Immigration Act.”

In the statement released this afternoon, it was also noted that the Minister will no longer be a member of the group, as he had been previously. All other members will remain the same.

Once the report is completed by the October 31st deadline, the Ministry will then launch a rigorous, island-wide consultation process with the public, the Opposition Party and various stakeholder groups, which will last for three months, concluding in the New Year.

“We want to give the public a fair amount of time to consider the principles put forward by the working group as well as other issues related to immigration reform inclusive of the work permit policy,” said the Minister. “The question of immigration reform has been a challenging one, with many distinct groups effected [sic] by it. Our intention is to create a truly inclusive and collaborative approach to get the best fit for Bermuda. I look forward to an engaged public on this matter.”

Only after this extensive three-month consultation period will changes to both Legislation and Policy be proposed.

Members of the public may recall that the completion of comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform is one of the items of priority highlighted on the Government’s agenda.