Traditionally, the affairs of the Government of the Cayman Islands have been seen to be shrouded in secrecy. However, the Freedom of Information Law, 2007, creates new significant rights of access to information held by Government entities. The Law ushers in a new era of accountability through transparency and is a major step forward in terms of openness and accountability.
The Department of Immigration is fully committed to carrying out the objectives of the Freedom of Information Law. At the heart of the commitment is the idea that accountability is in the best interest of government and its citizens alike. This Law gives us the opportunity to better serve our customers and the public and build increasing levels of trust in the way that the Department carries out its duties.
The Department has faced its own challenges in implementing the Law. Initial challenges for this Department were identified even before the implementation of the Law. The Department of Immigration was recognised as one that would receive a considerable number of requests; this was due not only to the volume of information held by the Department, but also the type of information held.
This legislation will be of little use if government entities cannot identify and locate what information they hold and recover it in a timely way. One of the major hurdles that the Department faces is the proper filing and storage of the information it holds. The right of access depends on records being created, properly indexed and filed, readily retrievable, appropriately archived and carefully assessed before destruction, therefore proper record keeping is essential to carrying out the objectives of the Law.
Despite the challenges, a great deal of information has been released under the Freedom of Information Law which the public would not otherwise have had access to, including persons viewing their immigration file. This builds into the system a level of accountability and will improve the quality of decision making. To date, the Department has received over 80 FOI requests. The majority of these have been from persons requesting to see their own immigration file, however requests for travel statistics, board policies and finances have also been requested.
In continuing to promote and carry out the aims of the Freedom of Information Law, the Department will also be proactive in the publishing of information on its website as it becomes available. The Department of Immigration publishes relevant information on its website, which include press releases, application forms, guidelines and procedures on applying for work permits, permanent residency, etc. However, in keeping with the spirit of the FOI Law the Department will also be publishing information that is of interest to the public.
This will include information on the Board’s policies, statistics on work permit holders, law enforcement statistics, travel statistics, and other timely information.
The implementation of the Freedom of Information Law has had a number of positive effects on the Department. It has resulted in increased openness and transparency, better records management, and improved accountability within the Department. It is anticipated that by providing access to records held by the Department the public will have greater confidence and trust in the Department and the way we carry out our duties under the Immigration Law.
Chief Immigration Officer