In the National Assembly |01 June 2023
Internal Affairs minister sheds lights on GOP issues
The first question was by the elected member for Glacis, Regina Esparon, who asked the minister about the level of mechanism in place to detect foreign workers whose gainful occupation permits (GOPs) have expired and what are the sanctions taken against companies and those individuals to prevent such actions from being repeated.
Answering the question on behalf of the minister, the chief Immigration Officer, Erica Dufresnne, who started off by explaining how a foreign worker ends up with an expired GOP, said that they get to that point mainly because of failure to regain an employment certificate in time from the Employment department.
She noted that the Immigration department always notifies employers that they should send applications for renewal of work permits for foreign workers at least six weeks before they expired.
She added that dispute over pay and compensation between employer and employees, which most of the time end up before the employment tribunal, allegation of abuses and human trafficking, are among other reasons causing foreign workers with expired GOPs to be in the country.
She said that in some instances, some foreign workers take it on their own not to leave the country by hiding from the authorities.
Presenting some statistics, Mrs Dufresnne said that there are 277 applications for GOP renewals, 4 expats are waiting to be extradited, 2 are in prison while 2 others are on remand.
She added that there are 11 suspected cases of human trafficking being investigated and also 51 grievances being investigated by the Employment department.
She noted that there still remain 258 expats who are yet to come for their GOP renewal at the Immigration department.
She said the department’s enforcement section is monitoring those 258 individuals in collaboration with the concerned employers.
Speaking on the level of mechanism in place to detect foreign workers whose gainful occupation permits (GOPs) have expired, Mrs Dufresnne said that they have an electronic system in place that notifies the moment a GOP expires or even a month before it will expire.
She added that 7517 GOPs are expected to be expired as at December 31, 2023. She said that they get information with regard to illegal GOP holders through spot check, affected employers and the public in general.
She noted that sanctions against employers who fail to meet their obligations towards their foreign employees include non-permission to apply for GOP.
Mrs Dufresnne said that the Immigration department has since January 2023 considered to allow employers one month to renew the GOP of their employees whose GOPs have expired in less than two years.
She added that for GOP holders whose permit have expired for more than two years, the employer is given only 48 hours to remove them out of the country.
She said that the Immigration and Employments departments work collaboratively to ensure that the foreign workers are paid all their dues before they leave the country.
She added that the law does not permit for Immigration to fine employers in relation to expired GOP and settlement issues other than to restrict them from applying for foreign workers.
For his part, Minister Fonseka said that although he is satisfied with the way work is being carried out by Immigration to deal with GOP issues in the country, the computerised system at the office though is outdated and a new system will have to be installed to deal with all immigrants entering the country, including providing online GOP approval.
Asked by the elected member for Roche Caiman, Audrey Vidot, on what happens to foreign workers who harass other people or have committed an offence while on GOP, Minister Fonseka said that if it is to do with employment issues, the department will take up the matter and if it is to do with criminal matters, the police will get involved where they will be taken to court before a decision for extradition is taken.
He noted that the moment a GOP expires the holder becomes a prohibited immigrant.
Before the start of the session, the National Assembly paid tribute to the country’s first Anglican priest and bishop, Archbishop Emeritus French Chang Him, who passed away last week. There were also messages of condolence to the Bishop’s family by the leader of government business, Hon. Bernard Georges and the leader of the opposition, Hon. Sebastien Pillay, on behalf of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) and members and the United Seychelles (US) caucuses and the people of Seychelles.