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Public should have backed OBA immigration plans, ex-OBA senator says

Dwayne Robinson, former OBA senator (File photograph)

Immigration changes proposed by the One Bermuda Alliance in 2016 would have boosted the island’s economy, a former senator has claimed.

But Dwayne Robinson, an OBA senator from 2018-20, said his party’s Pathways to Status immigration legislation was rejected.

Dwayne Robinson said the controversial 2016 Bill – which sparked protests outside Parliament – would have “assisted with improving the state of our Government finances and economy”.

Mr Robinson said: “I will not tell you the legislation was perfect or that the OBA handled the roll out to the community perfectly – the electorate sent us a clear message of displeasure, as is their democratic right.”

The Bill was designed to make it easier for long-term residents to gain permanent residency and status, but was withdrawn after a public backlash fanned by the then-Opposition Progressive Labour Party.

But Mr Robinson said the OBA would not “repeat the mistakes” of the PLP and would support the Government’s efforts to modernise the immigration system.

He added: “We will provide measured criticism and look out for our fellow Bermudians best interest by putting forward legislative amendments when needed.

“We will not disrupt town halls, spread misinformation and spread general discontent around their upcoming immigration reform efforts.”

Mr Robinson said: “I look forward to the policies to be put forward by our current Government – however, immigration reform is not a stand alone fix to our woes.

“We require job growth and reduction of Government expenditure, all which the PLP has promised, so let us get on with the progress.

“The OBA is willing to assist where we are required, so the only barrier to progress would be the PLP themselves.”

He was speaking after Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, warned that immigration changes were needed to help tackle the problems of a shrinking workforce and ageing population.

Mr Hayward said: “As we know, a high number of skilled and talented workers who contribute to the economy by way of paying taxes, paying rent and purchasing houses benefit the economy.

“In that vein, the aim of immigration policy is to increase opportunity for Bermudians and to help improve Government’s current fiscal position.”

Mr Robinson – who ran unsuccessfully for the OBA against Mr Hayward in a 2019 by-election in Pembroke Central – added that immigration policy was a contentious topic that had divided the island.

He said: “One side of the political spectrum believes immigration policies have been weaponised to prop up white oligarchs, while the other side believes our immigration policies are not liberal enough and that we have been stifled by xenophobia.

“Whether you fall into either category or find yourself in the middle, we can all agree on one thing – Immigration must be reformed, and the policy must benefit Bermudians above all else.”

Mr Robinson highlighted that Mr Hayward was one of the leaders of the People’s Campaign, which led the protests against the Pathways to Status legislation.

He said: “Minister Hayward's recent epiphany regarding immigration reform is welcomed, though the irony is not lost on me that this very minister stood with the People's Campaign to vehemently fight against immigration reform five years ago under the OBA.”

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Published January 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 29, 2021 at 5:57 pm)

Public should have backed OBA immigration plans, ex-OBA senator says

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