Slow pace of change on immigration slammed by OBA
The Opposition has condemned the Progressive Labour Party for “taking for ever” to tackle changes to immigration policy.
Ben Smith, the One Bermuda Alliance Senate Leader, said he had spent more than two years on the bipartisan committee on immigration set up by the PLP.
Mr Smith added: “It was evident from the beginning that the PLP was not interested in really making changes but more in keeping the holding pattern that existed and still exists.”
He was speaking after Jason Hayward, the labour minister, warned last month that the island faced a “fiscal cliff” unless there were changes to immigration policy.
Mr Smith said that modernisation of the regulations had been “long resisted by the PLP”.
He added: “The OBA has been pushing for an overhaul of our immigration policies, especially as it relates to those living here for years on end.
“It is unbelievable, now that the PLP has Bermuda in a financial hole, that it now wishes to call in aid when they have been hesitating for so long.”
Mr Smith accused the ruling party of adopting “spurious, opportunistic positions for narrow immediate advantage and political gain” instead of holding meaningful discussions on immigration.
He said only legislation for mixed status families had been sent to the House of Assembly when he was on the committee.
Mr Smith added: “It remains frustrating that after such a long period of time we only made that progress on an issue that was considered low hanging fruit when we started the process.”
He asked: “Will the minister’s comments mean a real change in policy or is this just a message in the hope of relieving the pressure of the long-term residents that are fed up and have their bags packed to find a welcoming competitive jurisdiction?”
Mr Hayward was also criticised by Jarion Richardson, the Shadow Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Cabinet.
Mr Richardson highlighted last year’s increase in job categories closed to work permit holders from 12 to 41.
The Government said the move was a way to get jobless Bermudians back to work.
But Mr Richardson warned there could be “unintentional consequences” because of differences in roles and skill requirements, even in the same industry.
He said: “Situations like this cause uncertainty, and in business, uncertainty is no one’s friend – the employee or the employer.”
Mr Richardson said the latest labour force surveys could be used alongside the Bermuda Standard Classification of Occupations to find out which occupations had high expatriate numbers.
He added that would “take the guess work out of replacing, however slowly, the overseas work force with the local one”.