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Aug 29, 2006

Dir. of Immigration: P.R. cards process was not illegal

Story PictureFollowing allegations by Opposition Leader Dean Barrow that permanent residency cards were being sold, today Director of Immigration Carmen Zetina says he did nothing illegal. In a telephone interview this afternoon, the director says several citizens from the People’s Republic of China on Taiwan were granted permanent residency cards as part of a temporary programme to “encourage investment” in Belize. The initiative started three months ago, and ten applications had been accepted but as many as eighteen cards were issued as the children of these “investors” were included in the deal.

Carmen Zetina, Director, Immigration Department
?What I can tell you is that it was such a matter of a policy that was, we had done to accept application for ten potential investors from the P.R.C. Alright whereby we were granting them residents I would say temporary/permanent residency in Belize and they had to make before granting these status to them they had to make a deposit to show their genuineness that they are prepared to invest in Belize and make a deposit of lets say fifteen thousand dollars, American to Central Bank. The application came through the Taiwan embassy in the Taipei office in Taiwan actually the Belize Embassy and they are the ones who processed the application at that end forwarding to us all the information they had on the applicants. And as I said we accepted ten. It was only on a trial basis that we are doing it on accepting ten applications.?

?As Director of Immigration having taken over from last year we have tried and actually encourage investors. Actually we were telling them look if you show that you are investing, where we can see the investment here in Belize, we are prepared to grant residence status to you all. What I have seen in many cases that yes they come and apply and down the road when they are looking at true vetting of the application we find out that they do not meet the full requirement. In the sense of when we ask them to produce what they have in terms of money we notice they don?t meet the requirements so we refuse them. We don?t grant the residency again.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
?But the people now holding these cards are potential investors or some have already started in the country??

Carmen Zetina
?Well no I don?t think they have yet arrived. Because you see when you look at those applications is that I think is about three of four applications, the eighteen is about four applications or five I haven?t determined that as yet. But those that were shown they have not been here and I don?t think any of those have come in, because we still some of those to send. Because we have processed of just late last week I think about two applications.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
?And it is quite okay for someone to receive one of these cards even though they haven?t set foot in the country??

Carmen Zetina
?Oh yes nothing is wrong. If you look at the immigration act proper you notice that the director of immigration has authority to grant any sort of permit even before you put foot in Belize. For example, a temporary employment permit. You know if you look at the definition on the actual law itself it tells you the discretion of the director of immigration to do that granting you a dependent permit I can give you. Let?s say a foreigner having residency status or a Belizean national for that matter bring his wife who is maybe a Salvadorian or a P.R.C. national for example, I can grant that person a dependent permit and his wife hasn?t set foot in Belize yet and the law provides for that.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
?And what kind of security is put in place, because in light of the issue with terrorism globally? What security has been put in place??

Carmen Zetina
?Well as I said it was the Taipei office Belize Embassy doing that. They have certainly looked at the security aspect of it by these people producing police record to embassy.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
?The programme is a temporary measure??

Carmen Zetina
?We have tentatively close. Because the ten that we have targeted for we have reached. Now we are going to look at the entire programme to see where we are going with that.?

But as the Immigration Director defends the investment programme, there is word tonight that two passports that were among the two hundred stolen from the department’s headquarters in Belmopan have turned up … in Hong Kong. Despite strong suspicions that the theft was an inside job, no one has ever been arrested in connection with the missing documents.

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