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Oct 18, 2017

At Senate, Labour Commissioner Discusses Prohibited Classes for Work Permits

Ivan Williams

The Senate Special Select Committee is moving closer to its conclusion, but it took a slight detour for today’s session. The two witnesses called – Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams and Assistant Registrar of the Vital Statistics Unit in the Attorney General’s Ministry, Patricia Hinkson – may not at first glance appear to be connected with Immigration. But Belize’s law, since 2010, requires the Labour and Immigration Departments to work together for the purposes of vetting individuals seeking work permits. A birth certificate is the primary document identifying one as a Belizean, the base for receipt of other documents confirming Belizean nationality and the privileges thereof. According to Williams, the onus is still on immigration to do additional vetting and if irregularities are uncovered, then the permit cannot be granted. Williams was particularly questioned about the department’s stance on migrants from Asia and The Middle East.

 

Ivan Williams, Labour Commissioner

“The terms of reference of the National Temporary Employment Committee speaks to that, that they have the responsibility to suggest or to recommend areas where work permits should not be approved, and I can tell you that shop assistants, shop clerks, and so on are part of the recommendations, so they don’t issue work permits in those areas. So there has been a move by the committee to exclude those areas – we don’t need any of those. And so I don’t see, except maybe in rare circumstances where there is some familial relationship or something, but those are categories in which the permit committee itself has been putting in structures to eliminate gradually. The challenge that we have is a large turnover of business owners, which we have to look at, and I do agree with you that we need to look to see how to minimize those instances where for one reason or the other, one person comes and sets up a business; next thing you know there is another person. But it’s a legitimate business, so it’s hard to really say you can’t approve a work permit for a legitimate business. But yes, clearly there are areas – for example domestics, shop assistants, clearly bar waitresses and all of those things – those are clearly not areas where approvals in my view very rarely, if any at all because they have been flagged by the committee and have not been approved. So we don’t have those.”

 

The process is managed by a committee acting for and behalf of the minister of labour and the result is considered part of one’s legal status.

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