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Sep 7, 2017

Little feedback on nationality list; is it worth it?

Diana Locke

As promised, the Senate Special Select Committee is turning the page after months of questioning on past misdeeds of the Immigration Department. For two and a half hours on Wednesday, much of the discussion with Director of Immigration Diana Locke was on changes to the system with regard to visas, passports, nationality and permanent residence. In the case of nationality, the list of names of applicants and addresses are published in the Government Gazette and on the department’s website and Facebook page, ostensibly to gain comment from the public on prospective Belizeans. But two questions were raised: do people actually give feedback on the list, and what purpose does it really serve?

 

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“Are you receiving feedback from the general public?”

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration

“I have not seen anyone writing to us or calling us to make any observation on any of those names that are there. We have gotten letters on applications which are pending – maybe somebody has a change of heart or they want us to know that I am no longer married to somebody, but that is a domestic issue so it has to be looked at in the context of the complaint.”

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“So what is a member of the public supposed to do when they see the name of someone they do not know has applied for nationality?”

 

Diana Locke

”I guess if you have a concern about that individual…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

”How would you know? Wong Hong Kim, resident ten Oriole Avenue, Belmopan. How does that help anybody in the public?”

 

Diana Locke

“Good question.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

”The point I make – and I don’t expect you to respond; when the Minister comes I will ask him about this – it is a farce. We are giving people comfort when in fact your committee knows now that that has provided no information to your committee for your committee to make a better decision. It is not a tool that anyone should be comfortable with. As I say, I don’t expect you to comment; when the Minister comes I will take it up with him.”

 

Diana Locke

“I don’t know that it was a tool to be used…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You heard what the Senator said? That was what we were told; the people could become involved and the people will see these names, and nobody could get nationality without their names going there. And I say to you again: if Wong Hong Kim’s name was on that list, it would have made absolutely no difference, the same thing would have happened. That’s true.”

 

Locke noted that the department is soon to gain access to Interpol’s website to help with security vetting; previously, Special Branch of police does vetting only for candidates from countries flagged as security risks.

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