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Jan 26, 2017

No Record of Ministers’ Many Recommendations, At Least Not Officially

Ruth Meighan

Wednesday’s public hearing of the Senate Special Select Committee on Immigration touched many issues and provided many revelations. One is the extensive back and forth with regard to the issue of recommenders for visas and passports, and the contrast with letters from persons seeking investment opportunities or sponsoring family members to come to the Jewel for a visit. Often, these people wound up also getting nationality certificates and passports after very short stays, clearly flouting established regulations. Minister Godwin Hulse has contended that there is nothing wrong with not knowing the person you recommend personally for a visa; it’s different for passports and nationality, which establishes Belizean identity. But either way, according to Immigration Director Ruth Meighan, the Department did not keep track of which Ministers recommended whom, apart from the red flag dossier of Deputy Maria Marin. Meighan told the panel that she never really considered it.

 

Elena Smith, Senator for Trade Unions and Civil Society

“Did you keep a record of those ministers who would send in letters to seek assistance with processing documents for persons that they knew?”

 

Ruth Meighan, Former Director of Immigration

“No.”

 

Elena Smith

“Was that because you did not see it as something necessary to do?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“That information was on the application along with the other application. You’re talking about keeping a register of all those recommenders from ministers? No.”

 

Elena Smith

“And that wasn’t something you thought would be helpful to the department, to the minister in charge or anything of that sort?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“No.”

 

Elena Smith

“We were told by your deputy at the time, Miss Marin, that she had thought it important to keep a record and she had sent us a listing of those ministers and she sent I believe two or three sets; one had about one hundred and ninety-one names on it and the other had about two hundred and something names where she had kept those numbers to show much many times ministers or drivers or C.E.O.s were going into the office. I’ll just give you an example: We saw where Minister Penner had made fifty-one requests the first time of the one hundred and ninety-one; fifty-one requests, and in the second batch of two hundred and forty-eight he made ninety-two requests, a total of one hundred and forty-three. Minister Castro made a total of eighty, thirty-five came from Minister Saldivar and the list goes on. Do you think that having something of that sort, Ms. Meighan, would have enabled you to make some sort of additional recommendation or maybe put in place additional policy to strengthen what was going on at your department?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“I didn’t see the need to keep a record of those recommenders, so I really can’t comment on it because at the time, I just didn’t keep a record of it.”

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