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Immigration Heads Meet

Cayman's immigration officials and leaders of government at the three-day (19-21 February) Regional Heads of Immigration Conference held in Grand Cayman. Representatives from Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Montserrat, Anguilla, the United Kingdom and the United States were also in attendance.

Published 26th February 9, 12:0am

Eight chief immigration officers from across the Caribbean are now meeting in Cayman in order to establish a regional association, as well as to discuss other major immigration concerns.

The three-day (17 - 19 February) conference, the first such gathering of heads of immigration, opened Tuesday at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. Representatives from Anguilla; Bahamas; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Jamaica; Montserrat; Turks and Caicos; the United Kingdom and United States are participating.

The chief immigration officers aim to enhance regional collaboration in information sharing and intelligence gathering, and to facilitate exchange among themselves.

Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, JP, described the meeting as timely, observing that the global financial crisis could bring border control, national security, and labour market management issues to the fore.

"The pain and loss of jobs and income that many experience as a result of these difficult times may give rise to an increase in crime, and may also pose risk to border security, as workers seek to provide for themselves and their families by looking for work on other islands," he said.

He pointed to the need for immigration officials to play a role in regulating the labour force, in order to ensure that indigenous workers are protected while ensuring that an adequate numbers of foreign workers are available to support the economy.

Also speaking at the opening, Cayman's Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson emphasised the importance of collaboration among heads of immigration around the region.

"We are operating in a dynamic environment, and we must be prepared to adapt to the changing needs of our societies. It is therefore important that we come together in forums such as this to exchange ideas, share experiences and open lines of communication," Mr Manderson said.

He expressed the belief that "a formal association will strengthen our ability to work together to meet specific aims and goals, and to improve opportunities for learning from each other."

Acting Chief Secretary Mr Donovan Ebanks urged the officers to generously share their knowledge and experiences.

"Each of you should leave here at the end of these few days feeling more confident to face the challenges that you have to face," he said.

The conference agenda covers issues such as the latest developments in border protection; asylum and refugee protection; enforcement of immigration laws; the accreditation system for employers; and the creation of the regional association, among other matters.

It is hoped that the gathering of regional heads of immigration would become an annual event.