The Tomlinson family *Photo supplied
The Tomlinson family *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, MAY 11: An expatriate worker and his family sent home after his workplace burned down said yesterday he was shocked at UK press coverage of the incident.

And Stephen Tomlinson, a former paint sprayer at car dealer HWP, said it had not been his intention to damage Bermuda’s image.

Mr Tomlinson and his family were featured in several UK national newspapers after local MP Andrew Percy promised to take up their case.

Mr Tomlinson — who had worked on the island for more than 20 years and whose two children were born here — was given less than a month to pack up and leave after his application to work for another firm was refused.

Reasonable

Speaking from his wife’s family home in Hull in England, he said: “I’m surprised by the strength of the reaction, but it’s important that this issue is out in the open.

“I didn’t set out to hurt Bermuda — I love Bermuda and its people. But I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.

“But we got 22 days to pack up and leave and that’s the only thing I think was wrong. If they had said we had to leave and gave a reasonable amount of time, that would not have been a problem“It’s not nice — the system should be more humane. Even if they had said after the fire at HWP that there was no point in applying for a job, it would have been better.”

Mr Tomlinson, 45, and beauty therapist wife Kirsty, who is also British, met and married on the island. Their two children Holly, 12, and Joseph, 6, were both born on the island.

And Mr Tomlinson hit out at criticism on UK and Bermuda websites that he and his wife should have prepared their children to leave the island at some point.

He said: “I knew I would have to leave eventually — people have been saying we’re bad parents because we hadn’t told the children we were leaving.

“That’s just nonsense — I have always told my children when my work permit was coming up for renewal and that we might have to leave.”

Mr Tomlinson was made redundant after fire ripped through HWP’s workshop and showroom last year, destroying the building.

His application to take up the same employment with at Mercedes dealer Far East Imports was refused.

Mr Tomlinson said: “I had been at HWP a long time — I was good at my job and I had a good reputation and kept getting extensions.

“I was not taking a Bermudian’s job because no one from Bermuda applied for it.”

The article attracted close to 1,000 comments from the UK and Bermuda when it appeared in the right-wing UK  national tabloid the Daily Mail, following an interview with the local Hull Daily Mail.

Some were supportive, while others were hostile.

Some posters on the English newspapers’ websites called on the UK government to retaliate by expelling Bermudians — apparently unaware that Bermudians are British citizens and had their previous right to live and work in the UK restored in the 1990s.

A spokesman for the Ministry of National Security declined to comment on the row.