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Nov 15, 2017

5 Years Later, Still No Solution on Peter Dahlstrom’s Citizenship by Marriage

Godwin Hulse

As noted by Minister Hulse, the case of Swedish national Peter Dahlstrom was one of those that made the news. He married the sister of Kim Simplis Barrow more than two decades ago but only applied for Belizean nationality in 2012. While he regularly visited Belize he was not resident here; but nonetheless he was granted nationality under the deeming provision of the Nationality Act, with a reference from his brother-in-law Prime Minister Dean Barrow. But that citizenship could be under threat if the Solicitor General’s office finds that the interpretation of the law is stricter than that used when Dahlstrom’s nationality was approved.


Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration and Nationality

“As I understand it, that particular provision turns on marriage, unlike residency where it turns on continuous ordinary residence. Sometime in 1992, I think, the law was amended to introduce a deeming provision that for purposes of residency, persons are deemed to be legally resident, so they are deemed to be a legal resident. That provision, as I understand it even from the present Solicitor General, is subject to interpretation. There is one interpretation that said it means that if the person was here legally or not the person is legal. But there is another interpretation that says it confirms legal residency, which is quite different from actual continuous residency. The principle being then that in this case, this gentleman had been married properly in a church, Sacred Heart Church, for eighteen long years. So when the file came – I did not remember at all anything to do with the Prime Minister or anything – simply properly married in a church for eighteen long years, which well surpassed the one year, and therefore, under the provisions of marriage he qualified. I was a bit surprised that the Auditor General highlighted this in this way, because there are other cases she mentioned but didn’t highlight; so it seemed to me that all she could have done was gotten a legal interpretation. And I would suggest that she is not the competent authority to bring the legal interpretation, nor am I. nor is anybody. The competent authority would be the courts if there is a difference. But to suggest some sort of impropriety, malfeasance or nonfeasance, is wrong, because that is not the case at all. The man was properly married, had been married for eighteen years, had been coming to Belize on a continuous basis, year by year by year. And if we wanted to stretch that, we could say that he came here he was legally resident and he had been here for eighteen such legal residences if what she says is true.”


Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“You will agree, I take it, that if the Solicitor General’s office is asked to provide by this committee to provide a legal opinion on this matter, specifically on this, and Mr. Dahlstrom did not qualify, he will get the same treatment like the other two?”


Godwin Hulse

“He would have to.”


Eamon Courtenay

“You have no objection to us getting an opinion on this?”


Godwin Hulse

“Absolutely none.”

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