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Time running out for Govt to appeal PRC ruling

This week marks the final opportunity for Government to appeal a controversial immigration ruling by the Supreme Court, according to the lawyer who argued the landmark case.

The decision, which allowed for two Permanent Residents' Certificate (PRC) holders to obtain Bermuda status, set a precedent for nearly 2,000 PRCs to become full-fledged Bermudians.

The move is staunchly opposed by the Opposition Progressive Labour Party, but Shadow Immigration Minister Walton Brown said he was strongly against any kind of “anti-foreigner rhetoric”.

Lawyer Peter Sanderson yesterday confirmed that Government was holding off on making any decisions about further applications while the “appeal window” for Chief Justice Ian Kawaley's ruling remained open.

“That window closes this week,” Mr Sanderson added.

On May 2, Mr Justice Kawaley dismissed Government's appeal of an October 25, 2013 ruling by the independent Immigration Appeal Tribunal, which directed Home Affairs to grant applications for Bermuda status by long-standing PRCs Rebecca Carne and Antonio Correia.

Status was granted under section 20B (2)(b) of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 — prompting the PLP's Walton Brown to bring a Bill before the House of Assembly proposing to have all of section 20B removed from the Act.

The Bill was defeated after a five-hour debate, in which Mr Brown charged that some 4,000 people would be able to acquire status.

The governing One Bermuda Alliance maintained that 1,340 PRC holders could potentially qualify, plus about 150 children under the age of 22.

Mr Sanderson told The Royal Gazette that the main figure came from PRCs who were on the Island in 1989.

“Any spouses of PRCs who were not here themselves in 1989 would have to wait until their spouse has had Bermudian status for ten years before they can apply under the spousal provisions,” he said.

“Children of PRCs may be able to apply, provided they are still under the age of 22 when their parent gets Bermudian status.”

Mr Sanderson added: “The bigger issue now is what should happen to all the children who were born and brought up in Bermuda, who consider themselves to be Bermudian, but are denied their rights purely because of where their parents or grandparents were born. It is unacceptable to have a whole class of people treated as second or third class citizens in their own country.”

Mr Sanderson said that he had clients who had been born on the Island and had children of their own, and “none of them can get Bermudian status, and some can't even get permanent residency”.

“Bermuda needs to do the right thing for these people,” he said.

Junior Immigration Minister Sylvan Richards told MPs that Government had hired a Queen's Counsel expert to review the case before deciding on the next move.

Mr Brown said yesterday that his legislation wasn't directed at foreign workers, but merely sought to restore the original intention of the law.

“More importantly, though, our position is that there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform where the interests of Bermudians, PRCs, and long term residents who are not PRCs are all addressed holistically,” he said. “The policy has changed as a result of the Chief Justice's ruling; this represents a piecemeal change based on an interpretation of law rather than reflecting a carefully examined review of the relevant law and policy and the subsequent development of a new holistic position.

“As someone who has consistently embraced the wonderful diversity and richness brought to our shores by guest workers, I abhor any anti-foreigner rhetoric or policy.”

The Pembroke Central MP said his position was based on the principle that “Bermudians should come first in their own country — which is the position of every other country that cares about its citizens.”

He added: “All residents — Bermudians, PRCs, non-PRC long terms residents, and short term residents — have rights, but these rights are not absolute and they do not stand apart and on their own. They all need to be assessed, advanced and prioritised in tandem with each other.”

Mr Brown said the Supreme Court ruling could open the gateway for status for 1,878 PRCs, 1,237 spouses of PRCs and 2,960 children of PRCs.

There was no response from Home Affairs yesterday to questions from The Royal Gazette.

Abhorrent: MP Walton Brown has no time for anti-foreigner rhetoric

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Published June 10, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 10, 2014 at 1:00 am)

Time running out for Govt to appeal PRC ruling

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