November 28, 2006

The politics of immigration

I have a column to be published in tomorrow's Royal Gazette, on the issue of work permit term limits, calling for the policy to be withdrawn.

Today's evening news broadcasts carried a speech delivered by David Ezekiel of the Association of Bermuda International Companies suggesting that the Government may be looking to do just that.

Mr. Ezekiel claimed that the policy is solely geared towards preventing future claims on residency/Bermudian status, by long term residents and that Labour Minister Derrick Burgess has asked for alternatives to term limits that would achieve the same purpose.

That's obvious and has been discussed before; simply have work permit holders sign a waiver relinquishing any claim to permanent residency or citizenship. It's that easy.

But the policy was designed to do more than prevent citizenship claims; it was implemented to also try and show the PLP Government as pro-Bermudian before an election and shore up flagging support in the face of a growing foreign work force under their tenure.

So I'm optimistic that the policy may go away, but I'm realistic enough to know that the politics of that are messy for the PLP who have hitched their wagon to it in a big way.

Frankly the key employee and good corporate citizenship exemptions are so broad and subjective that the policy is completely meaningless anyway. Regardless, the term limit policy has managed to make Bermuda a less attractive place to do business, for both local and international companies and that perception will be hard to turn around.

Posted by Christian S. Dunleavy