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Dec 15, 2016

New Belizeans Sworn-in in Time for Christmas

Over a hundred and twenty persons are new Belizeans. The group of persons took the oath making them citizens of the country in Belmopan on Wednesday. They come from as close as Central America and the Caribbean and as far as Mynamar, formerly Burma, and Bangladesh in Asia. The Minister of State of Immigration welcomed the new citizens, but her C.E.O. put things in perspective. Duane Moody has the following report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

On Wednesday, one hundred and twenty-three persons from twenty-five different countries of origin including Bangladesh, England, Burma, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Philippines, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, El Salvador, Scotland, Slovakia, Venezuela and the U.S. were officially sworn in as Belizean citizens at the George Price Center in Belmopan. The new Belizeans bring diverse experience in farming, business, medicine, education and the arts.

 

Beverly Williams

Beverly Williams, Minister of State, Immigration

“Belize is a good place; Belize is a peaceful country; it is a country where we have thousands of files of people asking for nationality so you are only a hundred and twenty-three of those and we welcome you. We in the immigration and nationality service are trying to upgrade and improve on the services that we deliver to you all, the Belizean people. For me, I love the fact that we are able to share with our close neighbors and for those of you who are not so close to us a piece of what we cherish most. Belize as being the most peaceful country in Central America, to share that with you, to look at the wealth of the resources we have.”

 

Since the start of 2014, the process of becoming a Belizean citizen has been stringent and open to scrutiny by the public. This comes after the rampant irregularities within the nationality and immigration departments as has been revealed in the Auditor General’s Report of the period from 2011 to 2013.

 

Edmund Zuniga

Edmund Zuniga, C.E.O., Ministry of Immigration

“We take you applications at the Immigration Department; they are checked by the officers accepting the applications and further checked by senior officers who then submit them to the Director of Immigration who then conducts her own checks. Once she is satisfied that the applicant meets the requirements, the names, your names—and you can check your names—are published in the gazette for three weeks so that members of the public—your neighbors, your friends, your enemies, can have an opportunity to say whether or not they think you should be a Belizean. It is only after that has happened that those names are submitted to Mister Pastores committee, the Nationality Scrutinizing Committee for their own review. The other members of the committee incidentally have representations from the business community, the churches, of course the trade union congress and those members are complemented by senior public officers who mainly are Chief Executive Officers of the Ministry of Human Development, National Security and of course the Ministry responsible for Immigration, the Director of Immigration and a representative of the Attorney General Ministry.”

 

Edmund Zuniga warned the new Belizeans not to lose this right that has been bestowed on them. He explained how their citizenship can be revoked.

 

Edmund Zuniga

“If it is found that after receiving citizenship, a person resides outside of Belize for five consecutive years or convicted of an offense under the nationality act or convicted of a crime under the criminal code or if within five years of receiving your citizenship, you are sentenced in any court to imprisonment for a term of twelve months or more, you can lose your Belizean citizenship. So keep that in mind.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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