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Nov 1, 2017

Participants in Nationality Rush Took Advantage of Obvious Loophole on Residency

Opposition Senator Eamon Courtenay revealed during this morning’s testimony that, among the rush of secret informants to the Special Select Committee, an unnamed source visited him some time ago with an interesting tale about his personal involvement in the rush to grant nationality to unqualified persons at the prodding of Ministers of Government. According to Courtenay’s source, all that was needed was the person’s passport, a manufactured stamp or two, and some creative thinking. In the context of the period from October 2011 to February 2012, where more than two thousand persons received nationality in a rushed process and got the right to vote in the general election, Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse was asked whether he could commit to a forensic audit of the nationality files from that time and responded that he would have to ask Cabinet. But the rush, he added, is a result of two words.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration and Nationality

“Senator, I cannot as you know, commit resources. The resources are done through Cabinet, through a budget process, through the Ministry of Finance; so I cannot commit resources. I take and will continue to take the view that any and all irregularities where nationalities are concerned – and I have heard that story before; I don’t know who your informant is, but I have heard similar stories, that all of this was done – and it becomes a daunting task. If we can clip off and cut off where we began to correct that, hence the discussion of scrutinizing committee and hence even making permanent residency – because we have to recognize, following what you said, Senator Courtenay, that at that time, obtaining nationality was under ‘ordinarily resident’, which did not mean anything more than you had to be in this country. It was not tied to permanent residence; it was not tied to visa issue. You could have looked in a passport and seen a person come in two weeks ago; you see the next week he has permanent residence; and you see a file that was there from last year for him to have nationality, because they were not connected. Not like now, where you have to have the permanent residence first – that’s a little more difficult to get; you have to have a period of five years then you apply and it goes to nationality committee. No; it was simply ordinarily resident. So people who came in on visas and got stamped up; people came in on work permits and got stamped up; as long as they were resident here ‘ordinarily’, by the legal interpretation of that and the various interpretations we had from the Solicitor General’s office, etcetera, qualified. But that opened that tremendous hole for people to do exactly what you said, stamp back, etcetera. The introduction of PEERS, that required now the eye and the finger detection at the airports, and also MIDAS, was an attempt to stem that. I have also heard, as you rightly say, of people whose passports were wet-stamped back a couple of visits, etcetera to look like they had been here four or five years – no permanent residence because it was not required, it was ‘ordinarily resident.’ So yes, to answer your question; those would require some investigations.”

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