Grotto Bay
Grotto Bay

Four out of five American interior designers interviewed by Immigration officers over alleged work permit irregularities were back working at the hotel yesterday, an insider told us.

The five — four men and a woman understood to work for a firm based in Florida — were the subject of a probe after a complaint at the Grotto Bay Hotel.

The insider, who asked not to be named, said yesterday afternoon: “The lady left the island early this morning. 

“Up until about half an hour ago, the four men were still working at the hotel.”

The insider said that the designers arrived in two groups, starting on Monday and had been booked into the hotel on a full board plan. The group had been replacing curtains and moving and replacing furniture before Immigration staff arrived.

The five were taken to an office on site, then driven away in hotel vehicles around an hour later.

A female staff member at the Grotto Bay Hotel, asked about the insider’s claims, said last night: “I can’t comment on that.”

She referred calls to hotel chief JP Martens. He had not returned calls from the Bermuda Sun by press time. Sen. Michael Fahy, Home Affairs Minister, is understood to be off the island and was not available for comment yesterday. But, in a press release on Wednesday, he confirmed Immigration had visited the hotel that morning in connection with a complaint.

He declined to comment on the details of the claimed violation.

But speaking in general terms, he said: “Employers should be aware that as we move forward with our work permit reforms the enforcement component will be strengthened.

“The Immigration and Protection Act 1956 places a burden on employers to verify the status of a prospective employee and to ensure that unauthorized guest workers are not hired.” 

He added that an “effective work site enforcement strategy” would be drawn up to crack down both on employees who knowingly hire illegal workers as well as on employees who perform duties outside their work permit terms.

And Sen Fahy said employers guilty of criminal violations, and abuses like harbouring, fraud or worker exploitation would also be targeted.

He added: “Essentially, the public can expect a new get-tough approach towards work permit violators and employers who knowingly contravene the Act.” n