HAMILTON, Bermuda, Wednesday March 16, 2016 – Protests against proposed immigration changes continued today in Bermuda, even after Premier Michael Dunkley last night offered concessions, including a three-month delay in implementation of the controversial amendments.
Hundreds of protesters marched through the capital this morning, after the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) and the People’s Campaign rejected Dunkley’s offer.
Dunkley said he had sent correspondence to BIU president Chris Furbert outlining some concessions in an effort to resolve the impasse regarding the Pathways to Status initiative that would allow people working in the British Overseas Territory for at least 15 years to gain permanent residency and then citizenship after being there for 20 years.
In that letter, the Premier said it appeared that the concern about the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2016, which would facilitate the provisions, was with “the proposed 15-year pathway to permanent residency and its open-ended nature.”
“It has become clear from public statements and private discussions that most key stakeholders who have spoken about reforming immigration seem to agree on a few key tenets of reform: dealing with children who are born in Bermuda or who arrived in Bermuda at a young age; maintaining the integrity of mixed status families; and addressing those who have been allowed to remain in Bermuda to this date for 20 years or more,” he said.
He suggested that the provisions dealing with the children and family pathways be implemented “in short order” and that government would delay implementation of the 15-year pathway for a further three-month period.
The Bill would be amended to insert a regulation making power in order to established additional
criteria for this pathway, Dunkley said.
During that time, a working group would be established comprising representatives from
various stakeholders to make recommendations on: additional criteria in respect of the 15-year pathway to be enacted under the new regulation making power; amendments to the work permit policies to address a living wage and training requirements for Bermudians; cracking down further on unscrupulous business tactics that undermine Bermudian labour; working more with the International Business sector to provide summer job opportunities for Bermudians; continuing with government’s efforts to similarly provide such summer job opportunities; continued robust enforcement of work permit policies through the framework put in place and which featured extensive consultation from the unions, through the Labour Advisory Council; and other matters of mutual interest as may be agreed.
The Premier added in the letter: “I also understand that the issue of voting rights by new Bermudians has arisen as a key concern. Government is committed to the Bill because we believe that it is in Bermuda’s best interest. How new Bermudians may vote plays no part in our policymaking process. Notwithstanding this, in addition to the above proposals and to allay these concerns, the Government would be committed to discussing questions pertaining to the timing of voting rights and implementation date of the 20-year status pathway.”
However, the anti-Pathways to Status movement has rejected the proposals.
They continued their demonstrations which began last Friday and included a protest outside Parliament in which they blocked MPs from entering on Monday.
The sitting, at which the legislation was to be debated, was adjourned until today, but was subsequently put back until Friday.