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Jan 18, 2017

Why Permanent Residency was Another Entryway into Immigration Scandal

Ruth Meighan

The senate select investigation into the Immigration irregularities exposed another foray into the murky world of Belizean immigration through the issuance of permanent residency. A hard-and-fast rule that was nonetheless broken with apparent impunity was the required one-year residency for non-Belizeans. But former Director Ruth Meighan insisted that her review of the various files brought up no red flags. While there was a “culture” of being fast and loose within the Department, Meighan says she was not aware that any outright scheming took place with her employees.

 

Ruth Meighan, Former Director of Immigration

“What I have in front of me, when I am approving permanent residency, is a photocopy of a passport, that gives me information to tell me that a person has been living in Belize for more than a year. And unfortunately, I really don’t have the visa information in front of me for me to do any kind of comparative thing with respect to a picture of a person, or information other than what is presented , because that is the process that we follow. The officer brings it to me, and then based on the recommendation from the officer, that is the basis upon which the approval is given.”

 

Carla Barnett

Dr. Carla Barnett, U.D.P. Senator

“And when you are approving permanent residency, is it a requirement for visas previously approved to be a part of that permanent residency application? Because normally you would expect that someone applying for permanent residency would have approved a visa and – …”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Within the passport itself – because the entire passport page, the entire book is copied. So within the passport itself, if you page through it, that should indicate to you when the person received a visa and entered the country. That is what the passport should have had. And that is what I used, and I believe the deputy, to give approval for permanent residency.”

 

Mark Lizarraga, Business Community Senator

“Were you aware of a culture, or a scheme that was going on in the Department at that time?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“There is a culture at the Immigration Department, and I think… I don’t know about a scheme, because I practically gave approval to these things, on the understanding that the information presented to me were accurate information. So all the approvals that I gave was given on the information that was presented.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Just to pause… If Miss Marin said she found about, in some instances, ninety percent of the applications that came to her were incomplete and she would send them back: what was your position if you saw an application that was incomplete and missing information?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Similarly; send them back so that they could provide us with the additional information.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“So go ahead, sorry; so everything that you approved had all the information…”

 

Ruth Meighan

“All the information that was required…”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“As per the process?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“As per the process, yes.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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