A legal challenge to Cayman’s permanent residence grant system has been allowed to proceed to a full hearing before the Grand Court.
A hearing date had not been set as of Friday afternoon.
Financial services company trust manager Mark Edmunds’s case becomes the second matter involving the length of time it is taking the government to hear permanent residence applications to come before the court. The first issue involves a separate legal challenge filed last year by local accountant Bradley Carpenter.
Mr. Edmunds’s permanent residence application was filed in June 2014 and has never been heard. Mr. Carpenter’s permanent residence application was filed in October 2013 and was approved shortly before the matter was due to proceed to court. However, a judge ruled that Mr. Carpenter’s claims of damages due to the three-year delay in hearing his case should still be considered by the court.
In his application for judicial review, Mr. Edmunds alleges the government’s failure to hear his residency application for two-and-a-half years is irrational, unlawful and “can be seen as applying a moratorium to the processing of permanent residence applications.”
Mr. Edmunds further alleges that the government-appointed Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board, as well as the government’s chief immigration officer, have ignored both Caymanian and European human rights protections in deciding to delay Mr. Edmunds’s application, as well as hundreds of others.
As of Friday, somewhere between 900 and 1,000 permanent residence applications had been filed under the current Immigration Law, which was last amended in October 2013 by the Legislative Assembly.
As previously reported by the Cayman Compass, no pending applications have been heard since at least the start of 2015 due to legal uncertainty over how to process them.
Mr. Edmunds’s challenge is believed to be the first case filed over the current iteration of the Immigration Law. Mr. Carpenter’s application was filed under the previous immigration legislation.
Both court cases have served to ramp up the pressure on the ruling Progressives-led administration, which has been reviewing the permanent residence issue since August 2015. Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie has pointed out several failings and potential injustices created by the government’s system of granting residence.
According to Premier Alden McLaughlin, Cabinet will soon consider amending regulations to the Immigration Law that deal with permanent residence. Once those regulations, which have not been made public, are approved, Mr. McLaughlin said the various immigration-related boards could resume processing residency applications and appeals.
“There is no easy fix for this,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The root of the issue goes back to systems and processes that have been in place from the introduction of the [residency] points system in 2004.”
There was no word Friday regarding when the premier expected to announce further changes to the PR system, but Cabinet sources indicated it would be “soon.” The Legislative Assembly is due to resume meeting on Feb. 22.