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‘One Set of Rules’

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Press conference remarks by Immigration Minister the Hon. Pat Gordon-Pamplin, December 28, 2016

Thank you for coming.

Today’s press conference is to address the outstanding matter of an immigration appeal that has generated significant interest in the community

In late October, I received an appeal from the AME Church asking me in my capacity as Minister of Immigration to overturn a decision to not renew the work permit for Reverend Nicholas Genevieve-Tweed, or Rev. Tweed as he is known locally.

I have responded to that appeal and this morning I will make clear the reasons for upholding the previous decision.

I do this mindful of the Immigration Department’s sensible practice of maintaining confidentiality with its clients.

But this case was thrust into the public spotlight some time ago, generating intense discussion and significant misinformation, and it therefore warrants explanation so that people can have the facts before them.

Two considerations framed the decision to not renew:

The first relates to the integrity of Bermuda’s Immigration policy, which has been developed and refined by successive governments since passage of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act in 1956. It is an Act that exists first and foremost to protect Bermudians in the work place.

Rules, regulations and oversights within the provisions of the Act must apply consistently across the board for everyone. There is, in other words, one set of rules for everyone, otherwise the system breaks down.

The second consideration relates to the two basic requirements for a work permit application:

  1. Employers must advertise the position locally  so that Bermudians can have a chance to apply, and
  1. The work permit applicant must submit accurate and complete information.

The applicant failed to comply with these two basic requirements. The position was not advertised despite repeated requests by the Department to do so, and the actual application was incomplete and contained inaccuracies.

On the basis of these failures to fulfil the requirements of Immigration policy, the work permit application was rejected.  And on the basis of the continuing failure to fulfil the requirements of the policy within the timelines set out by instruction of the Department, I confirmed that decision.

The details of my decision have been communicated to the parties involved. I do not intend to make that information public unless the parties themselves make a public call for clarity of the relevant facts.

However, because significant misinformation has circulated in the public domain about this matter, I will take this opportunity to clarify how Bermuda’s Immigration policy applies in these circumstances.

Ministerial involvement.

It ought to be made clear at the outset that, in accordance with Section 13 of the BIPA, the Minister is ultimately responsible for decisions of the Ministry and of the Board.

S 4.1 of the work permit policy states that a new permit application may be made no less than one month and no more than three months prior to the expiry of an existing permit.  Should such application be made within one month prior to expiry, the applicant must stop work unless the Minister specifically authorizes continuance.  The authorization is initiated by a request, and payment of the requisite fee, and may grant the applicant the right to continue working while the new permit is being considered.

Information already in the public domain would confirm that I received such request dated July 13, 2016 and considered it at my Appeal meeting the next day, on July 14. The permit in question was set to expire in just five days, on July 19, and at the time of appeal, a new application had not been submitted. Because this was within the 30-day limit, it triggered my involvement. If the application for permit renewal had been submitted in a timely manner the file would have gone directly to the Immigration Board without the necessity of the Minister being brought into the process.  It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the timelines are adhered to.

Advertising

In 2014, new policies respecting advertising were put into effect requiring all positions to be advertised if they are to be offered to a non-Bermudian (S1.15 and 1.16)

This policy, in short, applies to everyone – every individual, every company, every charity, every church. It is worth noting that every denomination has complied with this requirement since the new policy was put into effect.

Completeness of the File

The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act (S 61-1A) requires work permit applications to be complete and accurate.  If this is not done, the application may be rejected.  Occasionally, if all the required information is not provided, the Department will send follow-up requests for missing information and it is expected that such information will be provided within the time frame specified in the request.  Decisions are made based on the accuracy of the information provided, and an application may be rejected if the information provided is inaccurate or untrue.

Need for a permit:

A permit to work in Bermuda is required if an individual is subject to Immigration control. A person is not subject to Immigration control if he is registered as a Bermudian or if he establishes that he is entitled, upon application through the General Status Enquiry (GSI), to be registered as a Bermudian.  A GSI application must have the necessary application form, a birth certificate indicating the ties to a Bermudian parent and any other relevant information for a determination to be made. This is in accordance with Section 19 of the Act. I would add that it is not for the Department to use anecdotal or hearsay information to determine whether an individual is or should be free of Immigration control, and one who is free of immigration control does not need a work permit.

To conclude,

I want to be clear and personal for a moment. I am a person of faith. I know the importance of church and religious institutions to our community. Church has been a place of refuge, safety and renewal. In particular, the AME church, both here and across the world, has been a bastion of black history, struggle, sacrifice and pride. I know, as nearly 60 years of membership can attest.

This Government respects the church and we have had many conversations and correspondence on this matter, aware of its history and the importance of what churches and their leaders mean in our community. That said, Bermuda’s Immigration rules and regulations exist to protect Bermudians in the work place and to ensure fair treatment in the consideration of applications by non-Bermudians who wish to work here.

It is critically important that the intent and the spirit of these rules and regulations are upheld. Anything less would invite an ‘anything goes’ policy, calling into question the Island’s integrity and its commitment to protect the interests of Bermudian workers.

In this particular instance, the applicant failed to comply with rules that were put in place for everyone. As a result, I had no choice but to uphold the previous decision to refuse the new application.

Questions?

 

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