Roban: Term limits move shows Govt unconcerned about the publics fears
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban has defended his tabling of a motion on term limits saying Governments decision to do away with the policy raises more questions than answers.
And Mr Roban is demanding to know how Government plans to handle permanent residency in the future.
Mr Roban gave notice on Friday of a motion to reject the removal of term limits until there is comprehensive immigration reform which ensures there are job and career opportunities for qualified Bermudians in the local economy.
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy insisted that term limits were totally unrelated to work permits and that the Opposition is incredibly confused when Mr Robans motion was raised at a post Throne Speech press conference.
Yesterday, Mr Roban accused the Minister of being insensitive to the publics concerns.
To accuse the Opposition of being incredibly confused for demanding legitimate debate on this important policy change indicates that he lacks an understanding of how important the issues of terms limits, legitimate expectation and the integrity of the work permit process are to Bermudians and their future, Mr Roban said.
Not only is the Minister putting the cart before the horse, he is showing little, if any, sensitivity to concerns expressed by the voting public about the sudden shift away from the Governments campaign promise.
The Government has introduced this new policy without first presenting a clear and detailed explanation of how the work permit process will be enhanced to ensure that Bermudians who are willing to work are assured of access to jobs, job training, and also that the question of legitimate expectation of permit holders has been conclusively addressed.
Addressing these issues will go a long way in inspiring public confidence.
Mr Roban went on to say that many Bermudians were now concerned that Governments removal of term limits could open the floodgates of applications for Permanent Resident Certificates and called on the Minister to clarify how the issue of permanent residency will be handled in the future.
Does the new Government plan to review the whole framework in place for the PRC? There has been no statement by the Minister on this crucial issue. It is why we state that the policy elimination has created more questions than answers.
Sen Fahy indicated on Friday that the question of long-term residents of the future was not an immediate concern of the Government, saying that the issue would be looked at over a period of time.
A debate has raged since the end of last month when Sen Fahy announced the elimination of the term limit policy with immediate effect.
The policy came into force in 2001 and limited work permit holders stay on the Island to six years. Non-Bermudians who stayed the maximum period had to be off the Island for at least two years before being eligible to return.
Workers deemed as key to a companys operations were exempt from term limits, and extensions could be made if certain conditions were filled.
Government says that 35 percent, or 2,384 of the 6,817 work permits subject to term limits, were granted waivers in 2011. Another 35 percent (2,386) were granted extensions and just 30 percent (2,037) were subject to term limits.
The original purpose of the policy was to discourage long-term residency of non-Bermudians who would later claim a legitimate expectation of permanent residence in Bermuda.
Government maintains that term limits are not necessary to prevent such claims as Bermuda law does not confer permanent residence rights.