GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands --- The Cayman Islands will host Overseas Territories (OTs) heads of government for a pre-Joint Ministerial Council meeting this week, beginning on Wednesday.
The meeting will be chaired by Premier Alden McLaughlin and is an opportunity for all Overseas Territories heads of government to exchange views on political and constitutional issues, especially as they relate to the United Kingdom and its relationship with OTs. Heads of government from Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat are scheduled to attend.
Premier Alden McLaughlin
“While each overseas territory is diverse, these meetings give us a chance to discuss the many areas in which we can work together. This meeting will help us arrive at a consensus on the way forward in an effort to strengthen our collective position at the full JMC meeting, which will be held later this year,” said McLaughlin.
“It has long been a practice for OT heads of government to huddle in advance of meetings of the JMC and its predecessor, the Overseas Territories Consultative Council,” he said.
Gibraltar hosted last year’s pre-JMC.
The main focus of the meeting will be to agree on priority areas from the OTs’ perspective to be included on the agenda of the JMC meeting in December 2014 in London.
Specifically, those in attendance will discuss the communiqué process, progress reports and offer general feedback on the effectiveness of the last JMC, which was held in November 2013.
One of the top agenda items will be passports and emergency travel documents. Last year the United Kingdom set a deadline of December 2014 for the repatriation of passport printing for all Overseas Territories.
The issue of replacing locally printed non-biometric passports with UK printed biometric passports was heavily debated during last year’s JMC meeting.
The regional OTs have the same pressing concern around emergency passport issuance. OTs like the Cayman Islands can currently produce passports for medical emergencies within hours. OT members are concerned about the impact on their residents who seek emergency medical travel, putting at risk in particular the very young, elderly and those who may not have valid travel documents.
The Cayman Islands has been given assurances from the UK following a meeting held with McLaughlin that, following repatriation to London of responsibility for the issuance of OT passports, those issued to Cayman residents will continue to bear the country’s name. It has also been agreed that the Cayman Islands will retain control of sending passport applications to the UK and distributing them to residents once they have been returned.
The Cayman Islands will also be able to continue to produce emergency passports until current passport stocks run out.
In addition to the concerns OTs have about locally produced passports, the method of getting the information to the UK and other issues, Britain has lately been having trouble getting passports to its own citizens, often taking three to four months for delivery.