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More collaboration wanted in status debate

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Government's bid to grant status to overseas residents was flawed, a former top banker said yesterday.

Philip Butterfield, former chief executive officer and chairman of HSBC Bermuda, said: “I think it was wrong in how it was addressed to date because it hasn't been a transparent process and it has ignored a major constituency.”

Mr Butterfield was speaking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting held to discuss proposed “Pathways to Status” legislation by Government.

He said: “I doesn't have a ‘we' element and that's what needs to be changed, in my view.”

Mr Butterfield added that attendees at the Chamber meeting, held at the Hamilton Princess, had come out because of community interest in the proposed legislation.

He said: “The reason they are here is because they have an interest in the topic and they are hearing a range of views.

“That's how we get a solution, by hearing a range of views.”

Mr Butterfield added that Government had failed to communicate with the public over the controversial plans.

He said: “When you are politically tone deaf and don't have effective communication skills, these are the choices you make,”

The panel included Lynn Winfield of anti-racism group Curb, Mr Butterfield and Bermuda College economics lecturer Craig Simmons.

Mr Simmons said: “It was good to have some open and frank dialogue on the topic at hand. I think we gave a balanced perspective. People have doubts about the original proposal, now we have had time to reflect.

“I think we need to have more consultation and more discussion on what it means for Bermuda.

“If we believe in collaboration, we will get the best outcome, rather than it being discussed in small circles.”

The Chamber of Commerce in March backed the legislation, designed to give non-Bermudian residents who met minimum residency limits on the island a degree of permanence.

The Chamber argued that an ageing population meant that Government needed to increase the population in order to meet increasing social costs and that more people living and working in Bermuda meant more economic activity.

Mr Wight said: “The purpose of this meeting was to create a forum for members of the Chamber of Commerce and non-members to hear the views of high-profile names in our community to help shape their views on immigration policy.”

He added: “I think it's very difficult to determine whether people are in favour or not. The main objective is to raise the level of debate. It was very productive and useful for people who attended.”

Government withdrew the original bill after days of strike action and major protests outside the House of Assembly.

Redrafted plans will first deal with children who were born in Bermuda or arrived at an early stage, as well as mixed status families and adoptions.

The second stage will deal with the granting of permanent residence certificates for residents of 15 years standing, while a third stage will deal with the granting of Bermudian status for residents of 20 years.

Ms Winfield said that Bermuda continued to be affected by “ongoing, structural racism and implicit bias”.

She added that it was estimated that between 3,000 and 6,000 black Bermudians had moved overseas for economic reasons.

Ms Winfield said: “This type of brain drain predominantly occurs in developing countries. It is noteworthy that in Bermuda's highly developed economy educated black Bermudians feel forced to look overseas for opportunities.

“This brain drain must be reversed and Bermudians encouraged to return. Creative plans for the provision of job opportunities, introduction of robust legislation to protect black Bermudian work opportunities, an urgent focus on integrating young Bermudians into the workforce, introduction of a living wage and protection for Bermudians who are increasingly being hired for part-time or temporary work with employers sidestepping the need to provide benefits, must all be put in place.”

Ms Winfield added that the protests over the proposed amendments to immigration law underlined the racial divide in Bermuda.

She said: “The people protesting the proposed legislation on the hill understood the very real risk of disenfranchisement.

“Curb's research on immigration and demographics has show that this fear has a very real and frightening foundation based on historical oppression and current economic marginalisation.”

Pathways to Status forum: pictured on the panel yesterday are Craig Simmons, moderator John Wight, Philip Butterfield and Lynne Winfield (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Immigration focus: controversial plans to create new pathways to status are discussed at a forum organised by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 17, 2016 at 1:29 am)

More collaboration wanted in status debate

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