By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WHILE Director of Immigration William Pratt by law had the power to vary, cancel or reduce the 150-day period that was granted to Canadian Bruno Rufa on his entry to the Bahamas last year, Supreme Court Justice Petra Hanna Weekes found that it was “unreasonable” for the director to have given him seven days to leave the country - a day and half before the Christmas holiday.
Justice Weekes delivered her ruling on April 4 in the judicial review trial brought by Mr Rufa against the Director of Immigration to cancel and revoke permission given him on November 20, 2015, to land and remain in the Bahamas for 150 days until April 20, 2016.
Mr Rufa, a condo owner at Coral Beach Condominium, was told on November 23, 2015, by the Assistant Director of Immigration Hubert Ferguson that he had seven days to wrap up his affairs and leave the Bahamas.
Hearings began on December 29, 2015. There were four additional hearing dates, the last of which took place on February 26 in the Supreme Court on Grand Bahama.
Fred Smith, QC, of Callenders and Co, represented Mr Rufa, and submitted that decisions taken by the director were irrational and procedurally unfair and/or breached the rules of natural justice given Mr Rufa’s long history in the Bahamas.
Accepting submission by Loren Klein, counsel for the Respondents, that the director was not obliged to give reasons for the Immigration Board’s decision to vary the 150-day period, Justice Weekes, however felt that a period of 14 days would have been more reasonable.
In her judgment she said: “Considering the applicant’s (Rufa) long although periodic residences in the Bahamas, his investment as a property owner, his duties and responsibilities as the president and a director of the Condominium management company and the fact the seven days given him to leave, a day and half before the Christmas holiday, was unreasonable. I would have thought 14 days to have been a more reasonable period of time, and not encompassing two public holidays, namely Christmas and Boxing Day.”
On the second issue of whether Mr Rufa could reasonably have formed a legitimate expectation to remain in the Bahamas until April 20, 2016, the judge found that he did.
“I find and accept that the Applicant (Rufa) having entered the Bahamas legally, presented his passport to the immigration authorities and after what appeared to be the usual checks having been made, being given 150 day to remain in the Bahamas, that it was reasonable for him to have formed … a legitimate expectation to remain in the Bahamas for 150 days.”
According to affidavit evidence of Assistant Director of Immigration Hubert Ferguson filed in January 12, 2016 during the trial, he explained that Rufa had been permitted entry on numerous occasion for short periods of time mainly to attend legal proceedings…and that when Mr Rufa landed on November 23, 2015, it was due to internal miscommunication and unfamiliarity with the agreed position concerning the conditions under which he was being admitted by the Immigration Officer who landed him and granted that 150 day permission.
Mr Ferguson also claimed Mr Rufa was well aware that there an understanding with the Department of Immigration and his counsel that he would be allowed in for periods up to seven days or more at a time as necessary to attend his court proceedings. Mr Rufa, however, has denied that there was any such understanding.
On the third issue, Justice Weekes found that based on the applicant’s legitimate expectation to remain in the Bahamas until April 21, 2016, that the Director did breach this legitimate expectation and the rules of natural justice by cancelling or reducing the specified period of time from 150 days to seven days.
However, she did not find that Mr Rufa had any entitlement to remain in the Bahamas for the 150-day period.
Justice Weekes has ordered that the decision for the Applicant (Mr Rufa) to wind up his affairs in seven days and leave the Bahamas is set aside and must be reconsidered by the Immigration Board. She has ordered that no steps shall be taken to compel Mr Rufa to leave the Bahamas while the Board is reconsidering what would be a reasonable and appropriate time for him to wind up his affairs.
Mr Rufa has been a condo owner in Freeport for about 10 years, and serves in the capacity as president of the Coral Beach Management Company - a position he had held for many years.
He has a criminal matter pending in the Magistrate Court, where he is facing charges of allegedly engaging in gainful occupation without a permit in the Bahamas contrary to the Immigration Act. Mr Rufa, who denies the allegation, was released on $2,500 bail.