HAMILTON, Bermuda – The Overseas Territory of Bermuda’s House of Assembly (HoA) was shut down on Monday March 14, 2016 after legislators were locked out by protesters, including members of the Opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP), who formed a cordon around the building in a continuing protest against the government’s proposed immigration legislation.
The controversial Immigration Bill
The legislation, known as the Pathways to Status initiative, has been introduced to provide more permanence to guest workers who have met minimum threshold limits of residency in Bermuda.
The government introduced the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2016 to open the door for long-term guest workers to gain permanent residency after 15 years and Bermuda status (citizenship) after 20 years but the plan has divided Bermuda between government and opposition, the business class and locals and race is also playing a factor.
Home Affairs Minister Senator Michael M. Fahy, a Caucasian Bermudan of the ruling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA), has said amending the 1956 Immigration Act would bring Bermuda in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, generate revenue and help to address the decreasing labour pool.
The Bermuda Chamber of Commerce also supports the legislation adding, however, that efforts must at the same time be made to address the social needs of the community.
Large Opposition to Bill by local Bermudans
Politicians were due to debate the controversial bill on Monday but an estimated 1,500 protesters, who stayed in the House grounds all day, demanded the bill be withdrawn or else.
Speaking exclusively with our newsroom this morning, March 16, 2016 newly elected member of the House of Assembly from the Opposition PLP Diallo V. S. Rabain, who recently won a by-election in Constituency 13 (Devonshire North Central) said: “I am proud to see the people exercising the right to assemble and demonstrate peacefully for a cause they believe in. All the Government needs to do is withdraw this Bill and agree to immigration reform that includes all stakeholders. It is simple as that.”
Speaker of the House, Howard R. Horton, said the House would reconvene today Wednesday 16, March 2016 but with the overwhelming opposition to the Bill and thousands of protesters occupying the House of Assembly it’s unlikely.
Like the Virgin Islands (VI), Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory with a similar economy like the VI that depends on tourism and offshore financial services.