After a week of highly publicised disputes about the gathering, a scheduled meeting between the Cayman Islands Immigration Department and members of the local Filipino community was cancelled.
Organisers told a group of about 40 people gathered at Mary Miller Hall in George Town Sunday night that Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson was off island and could not attend.
No other top officials from the Immigration Department were present at the meeting.
Pastor Eddie Nacion read a statement Sunday that indicated Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Dennis Brady had advised members of the Filipino community late Friday that it would be better to postpone the meeting until Mr. Manderson returned on 21 July.
However, Mr. Nacion said the Filipino community did not intend to reschedule.
The event, which had been set up with immigration officials a month ago, was billed as a public forum where Filipino workers could have their questions regarding work permits and the islands’ immigration process answered.
Mr. Nacion, speaking in Tagalog, informed the audience at Mary Miller Hall that some local community leaders had submitted a list of 17 questions to the Immigration Department and expected to receive answers to those queries soon.
‘They (immigration officials) apologized for cancelling this meeting. They didn’t give any reasons,’ Mr. Nacion said.
Neither Mr. Manderson nor Mr. Brady was available for comment Sunday night.
Mr. Nacion said there had been rumours about the Sunday night meeting, and that comments had been made regarding members of the Filipino community who intended to make certain demands for human rights.
He said that was not true, and that the gathering was only being held so that ordinary workers would have a better understanding of Immigration Law.
The controversy reached a peak of sorts on Wednesday when callers to a local radio show expressed concern about the meeting and about the recent growth in the Filipino community in Cayman.
According to immigration records for 2006, the most recent data available, Filipinos are the second-largest nationality of work permit holders in the Cayman Islands, trailing only Jamaicans.
The number of Filipino work permit holders in Cayman nearly doubled in just five years, according to immigration records; going from 1,198 in 2001 to 2,353 in 2006.
The Immigration Department has not released work permit records for 2007 despite numerous requests from the Caymanian Compass.
Mr. Nacion, while clearly disappointed about having to cancel Sunday night’s meeting, said Filipinos in Cayman were grateful to be able to live in the islands and promised to continue to work with immigration officials to better educate workers about the law.