Bermuda’s new government has issued a fresh new mandate for the immigration reform working group. A statement issued today by minister for home affairs Walton Brown said that the group – formed after public protests against the former administration’s immigration proposals – will pursue a “principles first” mandate.
No longer tasked to propose amendments to immigration law, the group will now work on completing a survey on mixed status families, and recommend guiding principles for immigration policies.
Government has set the end of October this year as the deadline for delivering its final report, following which the home affairs ministry will engage in three months of public consultation before proposing new policy and legislation.
“All laws should be developed or based on sound principles,” Brown said. “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.”
Thousands protested last year after the One Bermuda Alliance Government announced its immigration reform plans.
The protests culminated in a five day shutdown of the legislature by thousands of people on the House of Assembly grounds, and the then government agreeing to withdraw the proposed laws and set up the working group.
The proposals included plans to grant status to those who had been resident in Bermuda for 20 years or longer and permanent resident status to those who had 15 years’ residency.
The reforms would have also granted automatic status to adopted children of Bermudians, qualifying persons born in Bermuda and permanent residency to those with an immediate Bermudian family connection after ten years or residency.
Then in Opposition, the Progressive Labour Party argued that there should be comprehensive reform of immigration with widespread public consultation.
The working group had originally been tasked to work through the OBA’s proposals and present recommendations.
Yesterday’s announcement makes those terms of reference obsolete and follows through on the PLP’s election promise of moving toward comprehensive immigration reform with widespread public and bipartisan consultation.
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