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Immigration protesters share frustrations

Protesters who disrupted a meeting on new immigration policies for long-term residents have spoken to The Royal Gazette about the frustrations that drove them to vent their anger in public.

Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, criticised the move as an undemocratic act of sabotage that prevented the public from being informed on the rationale behind the Pathways to Status initiative.

The two demonstrators who spoke with this newspaper requested not to be named, with one saying she had been subject to threatening behaviour — and both determined to continue speaking out.

“I'm just fed up,” one said. “I've had enough. I'm tired. I'm unemployed; I have a Master's in project management; I came back to Bermuda, and the only job I've been able to get was contract work — temporary positions where you're still paying your own insurance. I have a mortgage to pay on top of that. I have two sons that I had to pull out of university. I even had to dumb my résumé down so that I could work as domestic help.

“They told me my resume was wonderful but said they can't hire me because as soon as something better comes along I would leave.”

Senator Fahy has said that the measures, announced on February 5, are aimed at making it easier for long-term residents to acquire Permanent Resident's Certificates and Bermudian status.

The minister has defended the move as a human rights obligation that would revitalise the Island's economy and bring in foreign investment. However, the protester said the initiatives were untenable given the thousands of Bermudians already out of work.

She said she had many local friends who were “educated and able and work horses and still can't get any job”.

“I have a multitude of Portuguese friends and the way I feel is they have options and I don't,” she said. “Bermuda is all I have. I had no choice to come here. My ancestors were slaves.”

She said she had nothing against holders of PRCs but added: “Can we just deal with the elephant in the room, the 3,000 unemployed Bermudians? PRCs that are getting status already have options.”

Asked if she saw any logic in the immigration proposal, she said: “Yes and no. I understand what they're trying, but they are overlooking the obvious. Invest in your own people and let them put this country back where it needs to be. We are stuck being dictated to instead of being listened to. I will protest till I die.”

Wednesday night's disruption was not the first of its kind: the opening session of the House of Assembly last week was briefly interrupted by calls from the public gallery of “No to the OBA immigration reform”.

A 65-year-old woman who took part in both said she had been incensed by foreigners being catered to while Bermudians were unemployed, as well as what she viewed as patronising treatment.

“My mother used to say that if you can't hear, you're going to feel,” she said, describing herself as someone who had been “a quiet person who goes about my own business”.

She said her daughter had been forced by unemployment to move abroad.

“I rented an apartment to a young Canadian lady who was here for one of the same jobs my daughter had applied for the year before.”

She described having to give $500 out of her pension to her unemployed nephew, adding that she would soon have to do the same for her brother, while she had been forced to lower her rents.

She said she felt the legislation would reduce the next generation of Bermudians to “tenants in their own country”, with new residents buying up property and gentrifying the Island's market.

“We'll lose our community and our culture. That's what I believe my grandsons will face.”

She accused the Bermuda Government of only listening to a “a bunch of white rich men who are telling them what to do”, while the concerns of black Bermudians were ignored.

“The timing is bad, but it's not all timing. We have always had foreign people come to work here. The difference is that now we are allowing them to make the decision that they should be able to have status.

“The difference between a person with status and a person with a PRC is that the status holder gets to vote, and continue to have their say in Bermuda.”

She said she believed that the Pathways to Status move was “an old United Bermuda Party document that has been resurrected and shoved down our throats like it's a done deal”.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Wednesday evening's unsuccessful information session, the minister said that the discussion would have to be postponed until “another night”.

Speaking out: demonstrators at the Pathways to Status public meeting this week (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 19, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 19, 2016 at 6:34 am)

Immigration protesters share frustrations

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