New legislation giving the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act priority over the Human Rights Act will be debated in the House of Assembly today.
Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, has said the move “will not take away from anyone’s fundamental human rights”.
Mr Brown also told The Royal Gazette that the Bill was not aimed at eliminating the May 2014 Supreme Court ruling that enabled certain holders of a permanent resident’s certificate to apply for status.
The remarks came as the minister delivered an “impromptu” press conference in the wake of what Mr Brown described as a “litany of comments” about the intent of the legislation.
Mr Brown further stated that the legislation was separate from the business of the immigration working group, which will end its deliberations this month.
He added the proposed legislation, which drew criticism from the Human Rights Commission, among others, was designed to “bring back into law processes and practices that go back more than 40 years”.
Brown mentioned the Paula Tavares case, in which a woman born in Bermuda to non-Bermudian parents won a judicial review over a rejected application to work on the island without restriction.
Mr Brown said that recent decisions by the courts had combined the questions of “what is a function of government and what is a service”?
He added: “It opens the door for literally thousands of people to make that claim to a backdrop of high unemployment.”
Mr Brown said that The Human Rights Commission will be a member of a bipartisan immigration reform group due to start work next month.
New legislation to be debated
In addition to immigration amendments, three extra items are up for deliberation today in the House of Assembly.
The Tax Reform Commission Act 2017 will set up the commission on a short-term basis and provide for its functions, a spokesman said.
He added: “The TRC will review the system of revenue collection and taxation and recommend reforms to make the tax system fairer and enhance Bermuda’s international competitiveness, in order to attract more business and increase the number of jobs based in Bermuda.”
MPs will also consider the Appeal Tribunals (Miscellaneous) Act 2017, which amends regulations in an effort to increase fees paid to Government appeal tribunal members.
The spokesman said that matters appearing before the various appeal tribunals were growing “increasingly complex” and the ministry had “difficulties appointing suitable persons” to serve on tribunals at the current rates.
And The Electricity Amendment Act 2017 will eliminate a duplication of efforts on the form and content of electricity sector licences.
The Regulatory Authority will manage licensing under its own Act, while the minister is to retain oversight of additional licensing considerations “as are considered necessary”, the spokesman said.
Source/The Royal Gazette