Local businesses shelled out more than $289,475 in administrative immigration fees for 2019 to date for 116 work permit offences.

The statistics were shared on Monday during Finance Committee in the Legislative Assembly.

Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders raised the issue of work permit offences as lawmakers deliberated on funding for the new Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman department and the Human Resources Ministry.

He questioned how many investigators were assigned to deal with immigration and work permit complaints.

Human Resources Ministry Chief Officer Michael Ebanks explained that at present there is a team of nine investigators.

He added that WORC also partners with the police, Customs and Border Control, and the Department of Commerce and Investment when investigating complaints, as some of the reports may lead to other offences requiring action.

Saunders also pointed to concerns of discrimination against Caymanians seeking employment.

“Do we suspect that nine people is enough?” Saunders questioned.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the Minister for Employment and Human Resources, said the staffing complement will increase as WORC continues its rollout.

Saunders asked for an update on McLaughlin’s planned Fair Employment Opportunities Commission, which will deal with matters related to incidents of work discrimination.

McLaughlin said he is aiming to have the commission up and running next year.

He said the old immigration system was capable of investigating each complaint because there were fewer work permits at that time.

“But the kind of numbers we are talking about, we will never be able to do all of these things, which is why we have to rely on technology as a major tool to assist us to know whether or not employers are treating Caymanian applicants fairly when they apply and they are giving them a decent chance,” the premier said.

Saunders said the public and those within workplaces have to assist in the crackdown on immigration offences and questioned whether any anonymous hotlines were in place for whistleblowing.

Ebanks said there were hotlines at the Immigration Department and they will be carried over as government moves forward with WORC.

Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo queried the status of the online jobs portal and when the mandatory requirement for all job postings will begin.

Ebanks said the platform is in the testing phase with private sector partners.

“The move to mandate its use will come in the new year, giving our industry partners time in which to get familiar with the system,” he added.

He confirmed legislative changes will also be coming to implement the requirement.
Finance Committee continues Wednesday.

Fast data
$289,475 administrative immigration fees for 2019
116 work permit offences
9 investigators charged with looking at complaints
Total number of work permits
30, 298 (Nov)