Early election stalls bill for refugee rights

| 18/02/2021 | 23 Comments
Freites family protests outside the GAB

(CNS): The Cayman Islands government was expected to bring amendments to immigration legislation to Parliament in the first quarter of this year that would fix the conflict between the law and the country’s Bill of Rights as well the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. But the decision by Premier Alden McLaughlin to force an early election means that this human rights problem will not be solved anytime soon.

The Human Rights Commission has issued a statement confirming the legal conflict that prevents refugees from enjoying the right to family life, raising concerns that with the dissolution of Parliament, it will now be many months before new lawmakers will be able to deal with the necessary changes. The HRC said that this must be a “top priority” for the incoming government to addresses.

The part of the Customs and Border Control Act, 2018 that deals with political asylum and refugees does not give any residency rights to someone married to a refugee unless they have separately applied for and been granted asylum in their own right.

As a result, a Cuban family has been protesting outside the Government Administration Building in George Town for over two weeks now, asking for the law to be changed. But despite reassurances from officials that their situation was being addressed, the law has not been changed and the Freites family remains in limbo. Javier Freites, who has been granted asylum, and his baby daughter, who was born here, both have residency rights but his wife, Erika, who is the baby’s mother, does not.

In its statement, the HRC said it has already determined that there is clear conflict between the immigration law and the Right to Private and Family Life. It further noted that asylum grantees are required to be treated equally to nationals, which means that spouses should be eligible for residency and employment rights.

The HRC said it had been speaking with the Ministry of Employment and Border Control about the problem with the law since 2019, requesting the matter be addressed through an appropriate amendment to the law. But despite indicating “on numerous occasions that a request for such an amendment was being made to Parliament”, the law has not yet been changed.

In December, the ministry told the HRC that Cabinet had authorised it to issue drafting instructions with a goal of submitting a bill to Parliament in the first quarter of this year.

“Given that Parliament has now been dissolved, it does not appear that this conflict will be addressed within the Ministry’s time-frame,” the commission stated. “It however remains a concern for the Commission and as such the Commission recommends the remedying of this matter remain a top priority for the Ministry such that the incoming Government addresses it as a matter of urgency following the general elections.”

It is not clear whether the ministry has completed the work needed to make the amendment but this situation is yet another indication that the government had planned another meeting of Parliament before the 2021 general election. But with McLaughlin’s political maneuver taking precedent, bringing the election date forward by six weeks to 14 April, this human rights issue will now have to wait until after a new administration is formed to find a place in its policy priorities.

Right now, Erica Freites is in Cayman as a visitor, and while she is allowed to seek a work permit, she remains at risk of deportation, which would separate her from her husband and child.

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Comments (23)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If we have given him asylum isn’t he entitled to a BOTC passport? At which point there would be nothing to stop him flying to the DR and enjoying his right to a family life there. Guess the social services provisions aren’t quite as good – no doubt why his wife and her kids are so keen to come here, even though they don’t qualify as refugees. The guy is gaming a system designed to protect people under real threat, not economic migrants.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Don’t they need to make a minimum amount of money in order to have dependants here?

    • Anonymous says:

      Only if we follow our laws, which we don’t.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, because they are asylum seekers. You can’t refuse asylum on the grounds of people’s ability ( or willingness!) to earn a living. They either qualify for asylum on persecution grounds etc or they don’t – economics doesn’t come into it. Then once they are granted asylum they have all their other human rights, including the right to a family life, so now you have their dependents in the mix as well. We are following the law – just not the Cayman immigration law but international law and UK treaty compliance on asylum seekers and refugees.

      • Anonymous says:

        His family members are not asylum seekers. The family members of Caymanians are required to have means to be able to support themselves here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    and the NAU line will continue to grow.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Imagine how LGBTQ people feel after being denied any rights to family life. Just because. No valid reason. Up to this very day.

  5. Anonymous says:

    First off his sign is wrong….they are NOT a family of political refugees! HE is the only “political refugee” as she is not even from his country and was already on island on a damn work permit. Then they met, married, had a baby “thinking” that would give them leverage to do as they pleased when in reality it did not! Cry me a damn river…..free room and board, groceries, clothes geeezzzz a real hard life it seems SMFH

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just my 2 cents:

    Mr. Javier Freites you might have received more “understanding and compassion” from the general public if you chose instead to display the Cayman Islands Flag instead of the Cuban flag. No one is denying that is your place of birth BUT you fled as a refugee from an oppressive government and were granted political asylum in The Cayman Islands. For everything you, your wife and daughter are being provided with currently that would not happen in Cuba and to the Caymanian people your behavior/words come off as grateful and entitled. Then to add insult to injury you and your wife are demanding “rights for your marriage” to be recognized so that you can get a house, have a good life blah blah and you all want to bring your wife’s kids here from the Dominican Republic???!!! For Chris Sake are you for real with this crap?

  7. Anonymous says:

    They obviously don’t matter! You want to get treated as third class citizens? Come and meet to our third class CIG run by our thug class MPs.

  8. Anonymous says:

    i am a caymanian native..so is my daughter….but her mother has no rights as a foreigner unless i marry the mother? immigration aint gonna force me to marry..as they denying my kid the rights as the other two who were born in marriage? i will file a suit..see where it goes…as i am happily divorced ….and do not wish to get married…

  9. Anonymous says:

    If he wasn’t getting free rent and other handouts, he wouldn’t have time to be protesting, he would have to go out and earn a living.

    • Anonymous says:

      i am a native..had a fireign lady offer to pay if i marry her…we live apart and she stop by 2 times a week? whatsup with marrying in this country…as far as i concerned it just a financial contract…commitment out the door …..i definitely refused the offer…as i have a lot more money…plus it wrong!

  10. Anonymous says:

    While I think protests are an effective way to shed light on people’s plights, I feel this one will hurt these people.
    I’m unsure why she doesn’t just get a work permit like everyone else. If I was in a position to employ this person, I would not.

  11. Sad to be Caymanian in 2021 says:

    Sorry to say but this government wants to fix everything for everybody except Caymanians. Sad thing is the opposition is no prize either.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am curious, legit questions, and i think it makes a difference. Is she Cuban? Did they meet here? Did they get married here?

    If she is Cuban, and they met and married in Cuba and travelled here together, and applied for refugee status, if he was granted it, I suppose she would qualify also.

    If she is not Cuban and they met here and she is seeking a right to work because she is married to a “resident” it’s a bit more of a challenge.

    What nationality is the child? Would Cuba issue a passport to a child of a refugee issued overseas?

    • Anonymous says:

      I gather she is from Dominican republic and was here on a work permit when they met. The child born in Cayman would have her citizenship as she is not a Cayman citizen. They want to bring her children from the Dominican republic to Cayman and she is currently on a visitor visa. My guess is she cannot pass the English language test and shouldn’t have been given a work permit to begin with.
      She is able to apply for a work permit if she can meet the requirements.
      Too much umming and ahhing. They’ll have another child for government to look after by the time you blink.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There’s nothing stopping then from reuniting their “family”. They’re also not a family of Cuban refugees. He is a refugee, she is not. They can reunite in Dominican republic. They are free to go.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The spouses of Caymanians risk deportation too, if the law were actually followed. Which it isn’t. The whole concept of the rule of law around here is increasingly a joke.

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