Premier has 'great concern' over immigration situation

Two top Immigration Department officials are now on paid suspension and a third faces charges before the court next year, but Cayman Islands leaders were quick to note Wednesday that temporary replacements have been named and the work of the department should not be interrupted.

“These are issues that cause me great concern,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday, commenting from London where he is attending the Joint Ministerial Council meeting with U.K. and Overseas Territories representatives.

“I am satisfied that the appropriate action has been taken in each instance and expect that the investigations will be carried out thoroughly and efficiently,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I am assured that the important work … of the Department of Immigration will not be adversely impacted by these suspensions.”

The latest, and possibly most serious, staffing issue to hit the department – which is responsible for border control and the processing of about 20,000 work permits and contracts for non-Caymanian workers – was Monday’s suspension of Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans. Ms. Evans was placed on required leave in relation to “a number of allegations of misconduct by the chief immigration officer which require a full investigation.”

Ms. Evans has not returned Cayman Compass calls or text messages seeking comment on the matter. She has been replaced by Acting Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith during the investigation by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Ms. Evans’s suspension followed the Nov. 7 suspension of the Immigration Department’s director of boards and work permits, Kimberley Davis, over a separate administrative matter. Mrs. Davis has declined to comment.

Ministry Deputy Chief Officer Wesley Howell stressed that the investigation of Mrs. Davis is at an early stage. “The ministry … is not in a position to state at this time whether any criminal charges will ultimately arise as a result of the investigation,” he said.

Mrs. Davis has been temporarily replaced by Sherri Powell, who is now the acting director of boards.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer in charge of enforcement Garfield Wong is due to appear in court in April. Mr. Wong is charged with drunk driving, driving without due care or attention, and leaving the scene of an accident without reasonable cause.

The charges arise from an incident on Dec. 28, 2013, on Shamrock Road. Mr. Wong was not suspended because his charges relate to traffic offenses, according to an earlier statement by Mr. Howell.

Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush declined to comment on the suspensions or on Mr. Wong’s case, stating he had nothing to add to what the premier had said.

Changes in the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution Order, implemented after the May 2013 general election, placed the newly created Home Affairs ministry in direct oversight of the immigration department. Prior to that, the former Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs managed immigration matters under the direction of the deputy governor.

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