Some of the 1,500 illegal over-stayers estimated to be here last year remain in the Cayman Islands.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson clarified statements made by Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts at the Cabinet press briefing on Friday. Mr. Tibbetts said he had been told ‘there were only a handful’ of illegal over-stayers here.
Mr. Manderson said on Saturday that the handful referred to new over-stayers since the implementation of visa requirements for Jamaica and three other countries last November, and not the ones that were here before that.
‘Only a small number of people have over-stayed since the new visa regime,’ he said.
There has been some controversy surrounding the 1,500 number published last year, a number which included a high percentage of Jamaicans. The high number of illegal over-stayers was one reason the Cayman Islands Government decided to implement the visa requirements for Jamaicans.
Many people in the Cayman Islands, including Jamaican Honorary Consul in Cayman Robert Hamaty, expressed doubt after the number was published that it was really that high.
Mr. Manderson said the Immigration Department had been too busy to deal with determining if the number was correct.
‘For the past five to six months, our officers have all been too busy with Cubans (refugees),’ he said. ‘It’s only been in the last three weeks or so that we’ve been able to refocus on (the old list of over-stayers).’
Mr. Manderson said that the numbers of over-stayers on that list were indeed beginning to fall.
‘Some people have left, but I’m not in a position to say how many are still here.’
Mr. Manderson gave an indication that the 1,500 number was overstated at that time.
‘Surely, we have found some people on that list who departed immediately after Hurricane Ivan (in September 2004),’ he said. ‘Our records weren’t the best then.’
However, not everyone on the illegal over-stayers list from last year has left the island.
‘There’s no mistake about it,’ he said. ‘I’m confident there are still over-stayers here that were on that list.’