The Cayman Islands government issued six checks totaling $312,470 for a consultant’s review of a 2015 Grand Court judgment that questioned the islands’ permanent residence approval and appeals process.
The figure was revealed following an open records request the Cayman Compass filed in July for the cost of the consultancy report by local law firm Ritch & Conolly at the request of Premier Alden McLaughlin.
According to the payment records, six checks were issued between Dec. 2, 2015 and May 16, 2016 for “advice upon the recent judgment of the chief justice related to two permanent residence appeals refused by the Immigration Appeals tribunal.”
The Compass has also requested a copy of the consultant’s report via the Freedom of Information Law. It has not been released.
By way of comparison, the consultant’s report cost the government less than the $335,000 spent on a review of the Operation Tempura corruption investigation for former Governor Duncan Taylor in 2011. That review was done by U.K. attorney Benjamin Aina, QC.
The consultant’s immigration review cost more than a 2014 report compiled on the Cayman Islands public service by Ernst & Young accountants, which was 240 pages and had a stated cost of $155,000.
Premier McLaughlin has said the immigration review was never intended for publication and was meant as legal advice to inform the government administration on what steps it should take to resolve deficiencies in the permanent residence system identified in Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s Aug. 28, 2015 ruling.
The issues identified in the 2015 court judgment dealt with two major areas: First, the actions of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal in judging two cases in which non-Caymanians had applied for permanent residence – the right to remain in the territory for the rest of their lives. The tribunal’s actions in the case were determined to be a “miscarriage of justice.” Those applications were made under a former version of the Immigration Law. The two applicants were recently granted permanent residence following a re-hearing of their case before the tribunal.
The second matter involves the current permanent residence system and how points toward that status are awarded to applicants. Currently, applicants are required to secure 110 points out of 215 available in the application process. Questions have arisen regarding how 15 of those 215 points are to be awarded in the process.
Chief Justice Smellie concluded in the judgment that there were “immediate and obvious concerns” about the current two-tiered system for awarding permanent residence applicants a total of 15 points for their occupation and another 15 points if their job is considered a “priority occupation” according to regulations attached to the Immigration Law.
“It is difficult to imagine a policy that could be more opaque, uncertain and prone to arbitrariness than one by which points are to be allocated to occupations based upon merely subjective assessments of their importance in the context of the local economy,” the chief justice wrote in his 40-page judgment.
Premier McLaughlin has said that he would reveal government’s proposals to deal with the issues described by the chief justice before the opening of the next Legislative Assembly meeting in October.