Bermuda To Put Bite On Illegal Immigration

AP, Jan. 3, 2007

Foreigners who overstay their visas in Bermuda will soon become wanted fugitives, as the wealthy enclave adopts new measures to capture and deport them amid growing public anger over illegal immigration.

The Immigration Ministry has announced it will begin sharing photos of visa violators with a local anti-crime group, which will post the images on the Internet and publicize rewards for their capture.

“Anybody who overstays their time is a problem as far as we are concerned because of the importance we attach to the adherence to the law,” said Robert Horton, the administrative head of the Immigration Ministry in the British territory.

Crime Stoppers Bermuda said that within days it will publish the first photos, of two Jamaican construction workers, on a Web site that will also feature suspects for other criminal offenses.

The group, which is supported by private donations, said it would pay rewards of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the capture of the illegal immigrants. Those who provide the tips can remain anonymous, said the group’s chairman, Sean Pitcher.

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The government is also considering other measures against illegal immigration, including greater penalties for those caught employing or sheltering them.

Undocumented residents make up a tiny fraction of Bermuda’s 65,000 people, but there have been increased complaints that illegal workers have become a drain on public resources and are taking jobs, especially in the construction sector.

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Bermuda, a chain of tiny Atlantic Ocean islands 640 miles east of the U.S., is one of the wealthiest places in the world.

The territory is generally accessible to immigrant residents only through guest worker programs, which employ about 9,900 people ranging from doctors and lawyers to laborers. Visas typically expire after six years.

Those who deliberately stay past their deadline are deported and blacklisted from returning, Horton said. Bermuda deports about 20 foreigners each year, including those convicted of crimes.

Guest workers traditionally came from the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and the United States, but a growing number now come elsewhere, including India and Sri Lanka.

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