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Sep 27, 2017

Ex-ministers Called Out for Immigration “Agency”

Diana Locke

Several current Ministers of Government have been faulted for offering and signing recommendations to facilitate persons getting passports, visas and other services.  Some have gone even further, from couriering to, as alleged of ex-Minister Elvin Penner, facilitating select persons including Won Hong Kim, who never set foot in Belize. All have denied it, but on a visit to the Department a few weeks ago, the Senate Special Select Committee encountered two former Ministers who admit to being so-called agents or facilitators. Sources tell us that one of these ex-Ministers hails from Cayo and the other from the Stann Creek District. To one who is seen as more active and a nuisance, Director Locke issued notice that he and other would-be agents are persona non grata when the Department moves to its new home in October.

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration (edit out area where audio feed was lost)

“I don’t know that they have any influence, but I do certainly know that the staff isn’t happy with it. I have spoken to the persons concerned. The one you met in the parking lot, he doesn’t come by very often – the other one you referred to (laughs), some days I wonder if he works there. I have raised this matter with my Ministry because I don’t like the image that it portrays; because it gives the impression that the Department is facilitating the requests of the political directorate, which is not the case. And I have spoken to that individual – he persists in coming back; he says it is a public place and he has a lot to say. But I have to put that aside because it is not the right thing to do. The staff has already been informed – and I am sure he is listening to me today – the staff has already been informed that when we go to our new location, no member of the public will be allowed behind the counter in any of the areas that we have and we are taking steps to actually put fingerprint machines, so that areas are actually restricted – that only those persons who work in those areas can access those areas. Right now the present location that we’re in is very difficult – sometimes when I am in my office I would look up on the screen because we do have cameras; I don’t have time to watch them very often. But I do see a few people who I have begun to identify as agents when I see them often enough. As I have said before and I will say again, I don’t think that’s a healthy process; I don’t like it, because it gives the impression that there are some people that are more favored; our regulations and our laws require that persons appear – a family member, I have no objection to a family member coming in and doing something on behalf of a niece, a nephew, a child. But when a person continues to be there on a regular basis, clearly nobody spends that amount of time in any location for nothing. These are people who, I’ve been told, have been frequent at Lands, they are now at Immigration – Minister Barnett says they are not there anymore – and we are taking steps. I’m trying to be nice about it; I’m trying to go about it the nice way; but I hope that we don’t have to go – and I am counting on my Ministry to support me in ensuring that this is something that is addressed.”

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