Minister Tables Bermuda Immigration Act 2017

October 6, 2017 | 48 Comments

In the House of Assembly today [Oct 6], Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown tabled a Bill that seeks to exempt the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 from the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981.

Minister Brown said, “The bill entitled ‘Bermuda Immigration [No. 2] Act 2017′ seeks to amend section 8 of the principal Act to provide for the provisions of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 to operate and have effect, notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1981.

“In essence this means that this bill seeks to exempt the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 from the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981.

“This does not mean that the Immigration legislation can ignore the consideration of human rights,” the Minister added.

“Section 12 of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968, which has primacy over all Government functions and legislation, provides protection from discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed. Even then the Constitution makes provision for this right to be limited if it is ‘reasonably justifiable in a democratic society’.

“In addition, the UK is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and that Convention has been extended to Bermuda. Therefore any decisions that are made in accordance with the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 must also adhere to the articles contained in the Convention.

“You may ask why we are tabling this Bill. Over the years, the tenets of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, i.e. to protect Bermuda for Bermudians, have been challenged and continue to be so.

“Unfortunately, the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981 has caused some non-Bermudians to claim that they are being discriminated against based on their place of origin.

“There are very few countries other than Bermuda and Canada that allow their human rights legislation to extend to their immigration legislation; not even the United Kingdom allows this.

“In a country with limited resources, 22 square miles and a population of 65,000, the protection of land for Bermudians and the promotion and protection of Bermudians in the workforce is perfectly justifiable in a democratic society.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to table in this Honourable House, the bill entitled Bermuda Immigration [No. 2] Act 2017. This bill represents another phase in our “next wave” raft of Immigration changes.

Mr. Speaker, I must remind Honourable Members of the PLP Government’s platform promise for: Complete comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform to ensure that the rights of Bermudians are advanced and protected, while recognising the need to grow our economy with fair and balanced work permits and residential policies.

Our reform will ensure that Bermudians will come first, employer abuse is minimised, and the land in Bermuda is protected for Bermudians. This commitment was repeated in the recent Speech to the Throne.

Mr. Speaker, the bill entitled “Bermuda Immigration [No. 2] Act 2017” seeks to amend section 8 of the principal Act to provide for the provisions of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 to operate and have effect, notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1981. In essence this means that this bill seeks to exempt the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 from the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981.

Mr. Speaker, this does not mean that the Immigration legislation can ignore the consideration of human rights. Section 12 of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968, which has primacy over all Government functions and legislation, provides protection from discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed. Even then the Constitution makes provision for this right to be limited if it is “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”.

In addition, the UK is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and that Convention has been extended to Bermuda. Therefore any decisions that are made in accordance with the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 must also adhere to the articles contained in the Convention.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members should note that the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 is consistent with Section 11 of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968, which imposes restrictions on persons who do not belong to Bermuda; including: the restriction of movement of residence within Bermuda and the exclusion or expulsion from our island; and the restriction on the acquisition or use of land or other property in Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, you may ask why we are tabling this Bill. Over the years, the tenets of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, i.e. to protect Bermuda for Bermudians, have been challenged and continue to be so. Unfortunately, the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981 has caused some non-Bermudians to claim that they are being discriminated against based on their place of origin.

Mr. Speaker, you will remember the public statement of Minister Fahy when he announced that the tabling of the Pathways-to-Status bill would “advance human rights in our island to bring us in line with important international human rights standards. This announcement today should finally bring the much-needed security and peace of mind to those in our community who have come to call Bermuda their home but yet, legally, are viewed as outside guests here”. It is obvious that the legacy of this statement continues to impact the mindset of certain non-Bermudians. In addition, Minister Fahy made this announcement against the backdrop of statistics that showed that there was an unemployment rate of 25% amongst young black Bermudian men between the ages of 16 and 35. Obviously human rights, much-needed security and peace of mind were not extended to our young Bermudian citizens.

Mr. Speaker, there are very few countries other than Bermuda and Canada that allow their human rights legislation to extend to their immigration legislation; not even the United Kingdom allows this. In fact, you will be aware that many countries have doubled down on their immigration regulations.

In fact, the International Organisation on Migration [IOM] makes the following statement on their website:

“The normative approach to migration can be seen mainly from two different, but complementary angles:

  • 1. The principles and standards deriving from State sovereignty. These include the right to protect borders, to confer nationality, to admit and expel foreigners, to combat trafficking and smuggling and to safeguard national security.
  • 2. The human rights of the persons involved in migration. Many relevant conventions exist at the universal and regional levels, although most of them do not explicitly refer to migrants or recognize them as a specific group. These instruments are spread across various branches of law, such as human rights law, humanitarian law, refugee law, criminal law and labour law; the relevant human rights norms are therefore dispersed throughout a wide range of texts.”

The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 addresses the first. The Human Rights Act 1981, along with our other legislation accomplishes the second point.

Mr. Speaker, Finally, I would like to quote a lawyer colleague whose comment encapsulates our position – “Across the board from top to bottom and from east to west; from janitors to CEOs, non-Bermudians should only be employed where qualified Bermudians cannot be found. Every country I have worked or lived in abroad, aggressively pursued these policies and laws.”

In a country with limited resources, 22 square miles and a population of 65,000, the protection of land for Bermudians and the promotion and protection of Bermudians in the workforce is perfectly justifiable in a democratic society. Even Section 6[9] of the Human Rights Act 1981 protects employers who give preferences to Bermudians.

Thank you Mr. Speaker

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Comments (48)

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  1. mark says:

    Are you joking? I thought this government was about equality? How can they be supportive of Human Rights when the first thing they do is try and weaken them?!? This is outrageously stupid and immoral!

    • Athena says:

      Totally agree with this comment.

      The erosion of any Human Rights starts a very slippery slope which no ethical government or its representatives should even be contemplating.

      Human rights cover all and should not be biased to any specific group.

    • Tam says:

      You voted for it people. True colors, ugly protectionism.

      You think this is a good thing? Then you are in Trumps gang.

    • Bermudian Patriot says:

      It is what it is, and it’s not good. There is a price to pay, for all we do. Can we afford this?

  2. Rocky5 says:

    Here we go. No surprising PLP creating lots of 2nd class citizens in Bermuda.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Most of them were their own core supporters after their last administration… shouldn’t expect this one to any different

  3. LostinFlatts says:

    Well there you are. When the UN’s code on Human Rights protection doesn’t suit the political agenda, it can and will be removed.

    An utter disgrace. This is a problem that can be solved via existing laws and conventions. This is the nuclear option, and moves us backwards as a society.

    It’s an terrifying first step for this government, and shows an utter lack of humanity. There is so much wrong with this release that I’m too disgusted to even respond to it. It’s deliberately obfuscating the true issues, throwing out unrelated facts and trying to, as always, tie things back to race.

    There are children born in Bermuda through no fault of their own who have lived here their whole lives who are denied basic human rights – such as the ability to work. In any other generation of this country that they would be considered our compatriots and neighbors, but because they don’t look enough like certain Bermudians, we should turn our backs on them.

    This will not fix young male unemployment. It will only further the divides that exist in our society, slow our economic growth and blame a tiny sliver of our population that have no voice. It’s populist, and disgusting.

    • Ian says:

      But that’s just it. You can’t just rip up global policies, at least without the global community turning on you.

      There is not a chance this will hold water, or even get that far.

  4. ian says:

    I need to get some legal opinion on this before I can make my mind up – but this is the second piece of legislation that seeks to take primacy away from the Human Rights Act, the first being Wayne Furbert’s Bill, if it ever happens.
    The Minister may make the case that ‘it doesn’t happen in other countries’ but who cares about other countries … when you live and work in Bermuda?
    I am anxious about any political party that seeks to play games with any human rights.

  5. Double S says:

    Taking away human rights from immigrants…next is to do the same for gays.

    The PLP doesn’t even try and hide their Trump style politics anymore.

    Ironic that they have become Bermuda’a far right.

    • FU says:

      “Ironic that they have become Bermuda’a far right.”

      They always were, they were never progressive. They are Republicans but love Obama. They’re either stupid or hypocrites.

  6. Chingas says:

    Can the Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown please define the term “Bermudian?”

    We can then put statements like this into the correct context. I have heard him refer to Rev Tweed as a Bermudian and I think we need clarification on what makes someone a Bermudian.

  7. aceboy says:

    So Human Rights are trumped by our Immigration policies.

    We are now free to deny human rights.

    Great step forward PLP!

  8. Politricks says:

    If you (PLP) don’t like being compared to Trump, stop introducing and endorsing Trump like policies, which this one most definitely is. And so is blaming foreigners for all our problems. That is nothing but nationalist nonsense that is designed to stoke hate and xenophobia against people who are not Bermudian.

    Congrats to all PLP voters, you voted in these Trump wannabes. I never, ever, want to hear one of you complain about the comparison, as it is very much what your Party is these days.

    The imminent same sex marriage legislative amendment will prove that beyond a doubt/

  9. Joe Bloggs says:

    “In essence this means that this bill seeks to exempt the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 from the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981.”

    In essence, this means that anyone can discriminate against a non-Bermudan, even a spouse of a Bermudian or a PRC holder, in favour of a Bermudian and it is perfectly lawful. Why not amend the title of Human Rights Act to the “Bermudians Rights and a few rights for others Act” at the same time?

  10. Rada Gast says:

    Disgraceful.

  11. Clint Eastwood says:

    Imagine a government officially seeking to ignore modern legislation!!

    One step forward, two steps back….

    PATHETIC

  12. Fisherman says:

    from janitors to CEOs, non-Bermudians should only be employed where qualified Bermudians cannot be found – REALLY!!! Or it should say – employed in jobs that Bermudians refuse to work.

  13. mark says:

    disgusting

  14. Truthertz says:

    So in order to maintain human rights for Bermudians, we first must strip away the rights of non-Bermudians.

    Seen this approach before many times throughout history. Thought it was an approach that was confined to history.

    Welcome to Bermuda.

  15. mark says:

    the parallels between what just happened to us and the disaster in the US is uncanny. Next we can expect things like this:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41528526

  16. Mother Theresa says:

    Surely this too will find it’s way to the Privy Council along with SSM at the tax payers expense. This is DISGRACEFUL!

  17. SMH says:

    I’m all for political debate, but please read the entire article first before commenting.

    • Politricks says:

      Which part? The part where they are proposing to erode human rights in the name of xenophobia, populism and nationalism?

    • Truths says:

      I read it twice. What’s your point?

  18. Artsy Onion says:

    Disgusting, Walton & the PLP should be ashamed of themselves for mimicking Trump! Wonder what Obama would think?

  19. Former Union Member says:

    Initially I would be skeptical of any effort to remove Immigration from following basic human rights. I have read the Minister’s statement twice and still cannot understand why he is tabling this bill. The word obfuscate comes to mind: To confuse, bewilder, and stupify

  20. Protecting Bermudians says:

    This is a very small Island. There is limited space and opportunities. We must protect our citizens. This bill is not disgraceful or disgusting or condoning poor treatment of foreign workers. It is not saying that we don’t need or appreciate guest workers or international business. It is simply taking a step to ensure that a qualified Bermudian who is available, ready and willing to work will be given first rights to the job. How can anyone object? Now, if the employee Bermudian or not, doesn’t do the work, show up for work on time … well then employer needs to document and take action to remove them from the payroll. I seem to recall a Non-Bermudian policeman suing because he passed the sergeants exam and then didn’t get the job. We, yes we the taxpayers, paid him a large sum of money, yet he came here as a constable on a work permit, not a sergeant for life, but somehow not getting the promotion was against human rights?

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      You do realise that this legalises discrimination against foreign spouses of Bermudians too, right?

  21. What? says:

    What a nasty hateful thing

  22. Bermudian Patriot says:

    The Minister is utilizing Legislation from other countries and preamble from the International Organisation on Migration [IOM]. The IOM deals primarily with the movement of migrants, worldwide. This is bizarre, in the extreme.

  23. Watchman says:

    Everyone has a say on national issues. Every nation has an obligation to take care of it’s people first. Then the aliens. In this country, the Bermudians should always be first. Just as in any other nation, that nation puts it’s people first. What is the problem? Everyday we hear of immigration issues is the USA. The USA, Canada, and even the Caribbean…..all put their citizens first. Not sure why people feel they have so many rights concerning a Nation’s immigration policy.

    • Mark says:

      Its a moral issue, not a political one. The parts of the immigration act are already exempted from the HRA that allow things like people hiring bermudians over non-bermudians. That is not the problem. The problem stems from those people who have been here for a very long time and are part of our country and yet they will have no ability to obtain citizenship other than by being born here to a bermudian parent. That is immoral. And generally, weakening human rights protection is a bad thing wouldnt you agree? I thought this government was about equality. Shame. Im ashamed of my country when things like this happen. So embarassing how closed and small minded people are.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Sorry, Watchman. I must disagree. Whilst it is clear that President Trump is trying to clear immigrants out of America, if you look at Canada or England you will find that those countries are very strong on protecting the rights of everyone in those countries, regardless of nationality.

  24. cpm says:

    Brown must realise it applies to The Caribbean and Filipino immigrants as well as European nationals
    Has Tweed been given status yet at the discretion of the Minister?
    Lawyers’are sharpening their pencils and hopefully Government has funds to fight many battles in the courts

  25. cpm says:

    We all came from somewhere else so where did Walton Brown’s ancestors originate?

  26. FU says:

    ” The USA, Canada, and even the Caribbean…..all put their citizens first. Not sure why people feel they have so many rights concerning a Nation’s immigration policy.”

    does this mean tweed is on his way to the airport?

  27. The Professor says:

    Aside from all the wrong injustice of this article, I would love to see the math behind the statistic given for 25% if employed young black Bermudians. As a population health scientist this statistic does not seem reasonable and according to rough calculations that statistic would most likely mean the rest of the population has an employment rate of less than .007% or roughly below 200 people. Although my calculations are rough this does not seem correct.

  28. Mrs Brady says:

    The people got the Government they voted for.

  29. My unbiased opinion says:

    What I find disgraceful is that there is no protection from gender discrimination “protection from discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed”. It’s 2017, not 1917…

  30. CT says:

    Gender discrimination is not protected by the Constitution, only the HRA. What he is suggesting will mean that Bermudians will not be able to challenge the BIPA on the basis of sex discrimination. That is utter nonsense!!!

    • Proud to be Bermudian says:

      Mr. Walton Brown continue to do what is best for Bermudians.
      We have been 2nd so long….look at other countries… their citizens come FIRST!

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