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Sep 13, 2017

Warning over Documents Presented by Foreign Nationals for Belizean Children

The Committee has expressed interest in bringing in the top person at the Vital Statistics Unit; a division of the Attorney General’s Ministry that is responsible for recording and registering all births, deaths and marriages in Belize and is often the first stop for those recording these milestones. In her testimony this morning, Immigration Director Diana Locke outlined some of the serious challenges concerning bringing in documents from that Unit and others involved in records in being on the same page. She gave the example of birth certificates listing parents as Belizeans but when applying for documents with minors, often foreign nationals can only provide their records as proof. It is a loophole that needs to be closed, as she explained to the Senators.

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration

“There is a need for us to have something formal, where we can access the documents. It is my hope that we can do a memorandum of understanding with Vital Stats that we would be able to have at least one person have access to their system to be able to view. Similarly with Social Security and Elections and Boundaries, these are things that we are trying to work on. They have to be done through the I.T. persons, bringing them on board, working through the logistics and stuff, but these are areas that we are looking at and working on to try to see how we can do that, because there is definitely a need for us to interact with each other on a regular basis to check documents. We at the passport section, we have many, many challenges with the documents issued by Vital Statistics, particularly changes in name: persons who have known themselves by one name, find out twenty-five years later that that’s not your name, you have another name, and we have to work with persons to advise them as to how to go about correcting these things, having them make a decision as to what they would like to be known as, and once that’s decided, then they have to decide what course of actions to take at Vital Statistics. There’s quite a bit of impact on people’s lives and sometimes I feel for people – minor errors that are made on documents coming out of Vital Stats there is definitely a need, that is perhaps our biggest challenge. Something that I would like to point out – and it’s something that we are in discussion, I don’t know how it is going to be addressed – but, from the inception of the record being started at the hospital, I think there needs to be some strengthening at that point. We have seen birth certificates coming for persons whose parents are listed as Belizeans; yet when they appear at our office with that birth certificate and the parent is listed as Belizean and it’s a minor that is applying, the only document that parent can produce is a foreign birth certificate or a foreign passport or something of that nature. That opens up itself to difficulties to be encountered with nationality by descent; that is something that really and truly needs to be addressed. We don’t have the right to change anything on the birth certificate, so we have to send people back to have that corrected, because we are not going to scan those documents and keep them as part of our record.”

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Why is it important to you to have that corrected?”

 

Diana Locke

“Because the parent is listed as a Belizean and they’re not; such information can be used to gain nationality by descent in the future, so it is important for us that it be corrected.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“But who would get nationality by descent? Because the child who has the birth certificate is a Belizean.”

 

Diana Locke

“That is correct.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“The fact that the birth certificate is saying the mother is a Belizean, when she may not be a Belizean – how does a second child born outside of Belize or in Belize, benefit from that birth certificate which has wrong information on it?”

 

Diana Locke

“If that parent has another child that is born outside of Belize, they would be able to bring that document – people find all kinds of ways of doing things and so we are not going to take that chance.”

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