Five more permanent residence applicants who challenged years-long delays in the processing of their cases have been granted the right to remain in Cayman for the rest of their life, according to their attorneys.
The five join three others who filed judicial review actions against the government over application delays of more than three years in some cases. A total of eight people have now sued the government and been granted residency rights.
According to their attorneys at HSM Chambers, the judicial review actions remain active as potential monetary damages against the public sector are considered because of the lengthy delays.
“This has been a difficult process and one which we can lament became necessary,” HSM Chambers partner Nicolas Joseph said in a letter sent to the firm’s immigration clients Sunday. “It is hoped and expected that all will learn from this and no future repetition will be required.”
The judicial review applicants’ claims sought only to have their respective cases considered. There was no outright demand made that they be granted permanent residency rights. Rather, the claims state that government representatives acted unreasonably and unlawfully in refusing to hear the applications for a period of years and that damages had occurred to those individuals as a result.
Since the legal claims were filed and began working their way through the courts, the Immigration Department and its Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board have significantly stepped up the number of residence applications being heard.
Last week immigration staffers and board members met Monday through Friday trying to sort through about 50 applications in one week.
The vast majority of the decisions made on permanent residence applications have come within the past five weeks. Between July 31 and Sept. 1, 106 people became permanent residents; another 53 were refused that status.
“The efforts being undertaken in at least certain sectors of the Department of Immigration, and the effectiveness of them, appear truly exceptional,” Mr. Joseph said. “They warrant recognition, congratulations, and support.”
Since May the government has made decisions on about 200 residency cases, less than one-fifth of the backlog of more than 1,100 applications that piled up while officials delayed hearing those matters.
A Cayman Compass review of the permanent residence applications filed since the government changed the Immigration Law in October 2013 found that while some cases were heard early in 2013 and 2014, none was heard after January 2015.
Numerous legal questions were raised about the process being used to grant residence in an August 2015 Grand Court ruling by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who called the system as it existed then “opaque” and “prone to arbitrariness.”
Some relatively minor adjustments were made earlier this year to the points system used to grant permanent residence. Premier Alden McLaughlin has signaled recently that government may be delving into the process again to make further adjustments.
“We must strike the right balance to ensure that immigration and work permit systems work more efficiently and are more transparent and fair to those seeking employment, including Caymanians and those wanting to become permanent residents,” Mr. McLaughlin told the Legislative Assembly last month during his Strategic Policy Statement address. “We will improve the Immigration Law and point system [for permanent residence] to try to get this balance right.”