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May 11, 2018

The Problem with Split Immigration Department

Eamon Courtenay

Earlier this year, amendments to the Immigration, Belizean Nationality and Passports Acts passed through the National Assembly. Collectively, they proposed to divide the functions related to immigration and nationality services, and in the case of the Immigration Act, regularizing the use of the term used to describe the head of the government department responsible for immigration. But the Opposition People’s United Party still has concerns in the wake of the Senate Special Select Committee, which is yet to issue its report.


Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Lead Senator

“The Senate Committee is about to report and one of the biggest complaints from the public servants was that there was a disconnect between people who are in the country with work permits and permanent residence, and those who were granted nationality. So when somebody applied for nationality, the department that gave them a work permit or permanent residence, there was no sharing of information – the person would simply come and say I was here for seven years, I had a work permit, but there is no cross-check. Here it is, in light of that complaint from the Public Service, the government now amends the law to make permanent the separation. It is counter-intuitive, it is against what the public servants have recommended, but most importantly, it enables fraud in the Immigration Department to be perpetrated. We objected, and I will repeat our concern. We are now moving into re-registration. This division allows fraud to be perpetrated in the Immigration Department. We hear through the grapevine that there is an attempt by Government to appoint someone who is unqualified to be head of the Department of Nationality. It is in our view a part of a plan by the Government to conduct a fraudulent re-registration exercise. We said it in the Senate and I can tell you it is now coming into effect. The People’s United Party will consider this matter at its next executive meeting and the party will make a formal position. But I am saying to the Government, what they have done by law is against what the public servants have suggested; it is bad management, and we are making the allegation that it is designed to allow the Government and their cronies to continue the fraud in the Immigration Department.”

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