Amnesty urged for over-stayers

Pastor Steve Herro Blair, an unsuccessful political candidate in the last general election, issued a press release Wednesday calling for the Government to offer amnesty to the 1,500 Jamaicans the Immigration Department said are here illegally.

Mr. Blair, who was the 2003 recipient of the Young Caymanian Leadership Award, also said the way the Government has imposed the new visa restrictions on Jamaicans has caused divisiveness in the country.

‘If the Government of the Cayman Islands decides to impose visa restrictions, that is their prerogative,’ Mr. Blair said. ‘They have that right to protect the borders of their country, but they must do so diplomatically, and professionally.

‘They cannot open or leave the door open for all the hate… that has been expressed. They cannot contribute to the situation by declaring that the 1,500 over-stayers mean this country ill.’

That statement referred to something Cabinet Minister Arden McLean said at a press briefing last Friday.

‘Anyone who comes over and disregards the immigration laws of a country by over-staying, doesn’t mean the country any good and we need to get rid of them,’ Mr. McLean said.

Mr. Blair, who was born in Cayman to Jamaican parents, said Caymanians are not seeing that Jamaicans just want to work here to support their families.

‘They simply want to earn money anywhere in the world so that their families can survive,’ he said.

Mr. Blair thinks the elected Government needs to take a larger role in this situation.

‘I urge our government to stand up boldly and to deal with this situation diplomatically,’ he said. ‘I plead with them to offer amnesty to these illegal workers in our land, and I ask of them to lead the Caymanian people and not just run a government.’

Mr. Blair said the amnesty should not allow the over-stayers to remain in the Cayman Islands.

‘They have to leave, but we should give them the right to leave without being locked up,’ he said, noting that some over-stayers are arrested.

Over-staying was one of the reasons cited by the Government recently as grounds for denying a future visa application.

Mr. Blair said those who take advantage of any amnesty offer should not necessarily be denied a future visa request.

‘Immigration should work with these over-stayers and weigh each situation on its own merit,’ he said. ‘Some (of the over-stayers) were here on permits legally.’

Mr. Blair also urged all Jamaicans here to respect the laws of the land, and to report any criminal activity they might know about.

‘Cayman as we know it remains successful only because of the grace of God,’ Mr. Blair said, warning against injustice toward others.

‘Let us do what must be done, but let us do it gracefully.’

Honorary Jamaican Consul Robert Hamaty agrees with the amnesty idea, but thinks the names of the over-stayers should be published in the local media.

‘Give two weeks amnesty to leave with no prosecution,’ Mr. Hamaty said. ‘Employers who employ these persons are breaking the law and they would have no excuse (after the names were published) as they would know who they were.

‘This also would apply to landlords who house them.’

Mr. Hamaty said his consul office would also publish the names in Jamaica, and ask the over-stayers’ families to advise them to come home before amnesty expires.