National Security Minister Wayne Caines held his first meeting with industry stakeholders yesterday, now that he’s the Minister responsible for Immigration to discuss Bermuda’s policy and procedures.
Stakeholders and residents alike will no doubt be listening to hear just where Immigration Reform fits in on Friday, when Premier David Burt delivers his second Throne Speech, outlining the Progressive Labour Party’s legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session.
The Minister’s predecessor, Walton Brown, set up the Consultative Immigration Reform Working Group, which submitted their report about a year ago. He promised new legislation would be passed by February.
No word yet on progress to date, since then.
Following the meeting with stakeholders held yesterday, Mr Caines said since his new appointment, he “immediately began familiarizing” himself “with the key stakeholders in that space”.
“On Friday I made it a point to meet with the Chief Immigration Officers’ entire Department of Immigration Team, the Chairman of the Immigration Board, Renee Ming, JP, MP, and today I met with several industry stakeholders.
“I made it clear in this meeting that my office is always open and available to meet with them to discuss any concerns they may have regarding any application process,” he said.
“The key point I spoke of is maintaining the delicate balance of ensuring transparency, fairness and a seamless process for expatriate workers while ensuring Bermudians are given the opportunity to grow and develop in local and international business.
“Bermuda will be a place where everyone has equal access to opportunity, thus ensuring a cooperative relationship between businesses and Bermudians.”“These consultative meetings will continue as it is important to hear the views and opinions of all key stake holders,” he added.
Apart from that, very little in the form of specifics were released, which more than likely will be included in the upcoming Speech From the Throne to be delivered by the Governor, John Rankin on Friday morning.
Included in the meeting held yesterday, were representatives from the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC), the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), the Director of Policy and Regulation, Chief Immigration Officer, the Chair of the Immigration Board, the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), the Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers (BILTIR), the Bermuda Hotel Association (BHA), tge Bermuda Insurance Management Association (BIMA) and the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce/D&J Construction.
But she said: “Since February, we have constantly questioned the ministry on progress since no meetings or interim reports have been released.
“The failure to communicate anything leaves us to assume that no milestones have been reached.
“We were advised in July that the committee was in the final stages of producing recommendations to be included in their document to be reviewed by Cabinet.
“Nothing further has been released to the public about immigration reform besides yet another promise of more information down the road.”
Wayne Caines, the national security minister, took over responsibility for immigration from the home affairs ministry last week in a Cabinet shake-up.
The spokeswoman said that Mr Caines had “a big role to fill” and that the public had “no knowledge about the current state of immigration reform”.
She added that a simple solution would be to make it easier to obtain Bermudian status for long-term residents, “especially those that were born here or who have known no other home”.
She explained: “These are people who have already demonstrated a commitment to Bermuda.
“They are already here and have contributed to our society. Many of these people also have immediate Bermudian family members and have grown up as a Bermudian.”
Sylvan Richards, shadow home affairs minister, backed the group.
He said: “It is clear that this issue is one of the business community’s main concerns and the extended delay in announcing any meaningful reform to immigration is only adding to the economic challenges this Government is facing.
“Additionally, it is unacceptable that so many local families are being left in limbo regarding their immigration status, and they deserve better.”
Mr Richards added: “I am also concerned that moving the immigration department to the Ministry of National Security, which already encompasses a very large portfolio, will only add to the delay.”
Mr Brown said last month that the Government was still working on comprehensive immigration reform.
He added: “We have come to a position on a number of key issues involving mixed-status families and we will be unveiling that in due course, in the next few weeks.”
Mr Brown said in July that he hoped legislation would be tabled by this month.
Mr Caines said in a statement last night he had met with a range of industry stakeholders and immigration officials after taking on the responsibility for immigration.
He said: “I made it clear in this meeting that my office is always open and available to meet with them to discuss any concerns they may have regarding any application process.”
Mr Caines added: “The key point I spoke of is maintaining the delicate balance of ensuring transparency, fairness and a seamless process for expatriate workers while ensuring Bermudians are given the opportunity to grow and develop in local and international business.
“Bermuda will be a place where everyone has equal access to opportunity thus ensuring a co-operative relationship between businesses and Bermudians.”