Straight talk needed on immigration policy

There’s no shame in adopting a restrictive immigration policy, as long as it is communicated clearly and applied fairly.

While it doesn’t make business sense, there is no moral imperative for a country to welcome seekers of employment and residence status.

That is especially true for small, insular territories such as the Cayman Islands, where immigration regulations are as much about social engineering and economic progress as they are about international human rights.

If it is the official policy of the Progressives-led government to strike a hard-line stance against foreigners, and throttle the flow of work permits and status grants, then they should just come out and say so.

If that’s not the Progressives’ intent, then they need to prove it — by their words and their actions.

Since gaining power last year, the Progressives government has made it – in the words of Premier Alden McLaughlin “more difficult to get permanent residency” – but rather than instituting straightforward, stricter standards, the government has done it surreptitiously, through a labyrinthine “points system” that cloaks arbitrariness within the semblance of objectivity, and by changing the game for aspiring residents who have spent the past five or more years playing by an earlier set of rules.

In January, we learned that a third of the 1,500 holders of “term limit exemption permits” – meaning they had been here for more than seven years – had left Cayman without even attempting to apply for permanent residence.

The exodus, responded our premier, shows the government’s approach is succeeding.

(Contrast Premier McLaughlin’s attitude toward prospective residents with the expensive contortions he threw himself into when negotiating with the U.K. on new issuance procedures for passports, all in the name of salvaging precious gilded letters on passport covers and redundant jobs at Cayman’s Passport Office.)

Presumably, the Progressives’ strategy – assuming they have one beyond pandering to nativists among their political base – is to encourage Caymanians to step into roles being vacated by longtime work permit holders.

So far, the plan isn’t working. And neither are some 1,900 Caymanians, according to the most recent figures available, which are from 2012 and thus obsolete.

The persistently ineffective National Workforce Development Agency says it found jobs for about 160 people during the eight months ending Jan. 31. At that pace, it would take the better part of a decade for the NWDA to replace the 1,500 TLEP holders with Caymanians, even assuming, falsely, that the available workers are good fits for the available jobs.

Based on our observations and experiences dealing with immigration, we tend to concur with the scathing remarks delivered in mid-March by Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam, who said, “The cost of doing business and the constant struggles with obtaining local and international labor remains the biggest challenge facing Chamber members and is strangling business development and our efforts to press ahead with a sustainable economic recovery.”

Take heed: Government is, in the words of the head of Cayman’s premier private sector organization, “strangling business development.”

The rampant unemployment among Caymanians is inextricably linked not only to policies on immigration, but multifarious areas such as education and business regulation.

The Caymanian unemployment problem cannot be addressed by clamping down on foreign workers. The NWDA has proven itself to be simply incapable of performing its appointed role.

It’s time for the private sector to band together, pitch in and take over the unemployment issue, leaving the government free to pursue, oh, whatever it is that government does.

The Compass will elaborate on this proposal in future editions of this newspaper.

If Cayman’s government is not going to take care of its business, then it’s up to Cayman’s businesses to take care of it for themselves.


  1. Teenage Student Yashika Bageerathi Deported

    A teenager at the centre of a deportation battle has left the UK on a plane to Mauritius.

    The removal of student Yashika Bageerathi has gone ahead after a last-minute attempt to secure an emergency injunction failed.

    The 19-year-old is being flown back by Air Mauritius, which has issued a statement saying it regrets this situation.

    Her headteacher Lynne Dawes told Sky News the teenager had been put on the plane at Heathrow surrounded by four security guards.

    She said: I just can’t believe they are sending her home.

    I thought some compassion would be shown.

    This is what is happening in the United Kingdom now, even as the EU opens its doors to membership for Romania and Bulgaria and an influx of legal migrants from those countries into Western Europe and the UK, in particular.

    Asylum seekers like Yashika, who was let into the UK under the human rights laws, are being deported to make way for these new EU migrants and to lessen competition for jobs for UK-born citizens.

    If the CI Govt. is adopting a harder line towards work immigrants in Cayman, it is only following the example being set by Mother England.

    Maybe it is time for each and all to look out for their own first…the United Kingdom is certainly showing no hesitation in doing that at the moment.

  2. The problem that we have in Cayman is the abusive business community that refuses to follow the laws of the country. This was clearly demonstrated when the current government had to rush to implement changes to the then existing laws in order to accommodate the many business people that have outright refused to undertake the required succession planning for their foreign and local workers. This is also not as much an issue of Caymanian worker vs foreign worker as this editorial would like you to believe. Data clearly shows that, with a worldwide recession that is still impacting millions of skilled workers, there are many qualified people from many countries that are looking for work in places like the Cayman Islands. However, many of the local business people still refuse to engage in any form of succession planning and continue to bully and threaten the government and people of the Cayman Islands.

    If you take a close look at many of these local business establishments you will notice that the owners /or managers tend to employ their friends, family members, fellow country men, or people that they know that they can exploit with minimal or no consequences. As a result of these unethical practices there is no real desire on the part of these business establishments to engage in any meaningful succession planning or to employ Caymanians.

    There is no need for the government to make any additional statements on this issue as it should already be clear to everyone involved that there should be no expectation that foreign workers will get permanent residency or Cayman status at the end of their work permit.

    With a worldwide recession that is still impacting millions of skilled workers there is clearly no need for the government of the Cayman Islands to approve as many permanent residency or Cayman status applications as they might have done in the past.

  3. The Cayman Islands Governments has the absolute right to prevent people from other countries from moving here.
    I can understand their concerns.

    When I visit Central London it seems all you see are Arabs, Russians, Chinese and others.
    It must be upsetting to almost be a minority in your own country.

    On the other hand there are some pretty smart people here in the banking and legal profession. Mostly foreigners. Kick them out and will it really create a job for a Caymanian or just for a another temporary foreigner. Who will have to learn everything from scratch that their predecessor had picked up over the years. At great cost to their employer.

    There is a diving industry here. Yet hardly any Caymanians work in it. Is this because they are being excluded or because they don’t want to do these jobs?

    The same goes for hairdressers, gardeners, maids and construction workers.

    Absolutely kick them all out. But who will take their jobs?
    Caymanians or just a new batch of foreigners?

    And that new batch won’t be interested in buying a home or supporting local charities. Why should they be when they are just the hired help?

    Walk into the offices of any local charity and you will see it staffed with ex-pat volunteers.
    What happens when they say, To Heck with you. I’ll spend my free time with my family not working for a country that wants me gone.

    But in the end it is solely the right of the government to make the immigration laws.

    Unfair though they may seem.

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