January 13, 2012 on LoveFM
Over the last few days there have been allegations that a number of immigrants are being given Belizean status without going through the proper channels. Director of Immigration Ruth Meighan has come forward to say that her department has been operating above board.
Marion Ali reporting…
“On Tuesday of this week, Francis Fonseca, the Leader of the Opposition, People’s United Party, told Love News that his party received information that there has been a mass naturalization of “new Belizeans”. But the PUP, Fonseca said, was made to understand that many of the persons who received Belizean citizenship did not qualify at the last swearing-in ceremony to be Belizeans.
Francis Fonseca, Leader, PUP
It is our understanding the reports that we have gotten suggest that many of these applicants, many of these new Belizean citizens did not meet the criteria for being Belizean citizens. Many of them did not present the proper documents that are require to become a Belizean citizen, many of them as we understand it have not lived in Belize for the required period of time to become and qualify to be a Belizean citizen so there was not a proper vetting process.
Today, there was another huge line outside the Immigration office in Belmopan of people waiting to receive their citizenship. The crowd numbered in the hundreds when we arrived just before noon, and according to Director of Immigration, Ruth Meighan, there is nothing sinister or improper about the naturalization of new Belizeans.
Marion Ali – Reporter
Can you please explain to Belizean what that procedure is and if there is one document short or one piece of information missing what happens then?
What we try to do is establish light of stay because we have two sections of the law that refers to nationality, new persons wanting to be Belizeans. We have those that fall under section 10 which is through registration and those who fall under section 11 which is through marriage. Now the law in case of the marriage says that a person can become a citizen upon marriage to a Belizean which means that it does not mean necessarily mean where that person is as long as you can verify that the person is a Belizean. However administratively what we do is to put a policy in place were the person would have to be living in Belize for one year which can be at anytime a person wish to because the law does not specify the one year, they can challenge that if they want to. In the case of those persons who fall under section 10, those persons are required to live no less than five years in Belize, and so as long as we establish stay then those person would then qualify.
Meighan said that the majority of the applicants, who end up becoming Belizean citizens, are really migrants who have lived in the country for at least five years, and if they do not meet the requirements, she said they are turned back.
If they are here for less than five years they do not qualify, we do not allow them to be sworn in, we do not process their application.
How airtight is the process?
In terms of airtight what we have in front of us with the resources that we have available which we use to do these things, there is the process where that person would come in they would provide us with documents. The way we process it, it is highly unlikely that you would come in and find persons who are not qualified, who would be given nationality.
We asked Meighan if she, her office, and her staff are being politically influenced, and this was her response.
There’s always political influences in any part of Government service that you would want to go into but in terms of our processing of application, there are set requirements that we need to have. There is no need to bend the rules because there are set requirements. Even though all of these people are coming in, I am certain.
According to Meighan, this type of crowd that was waiting outside her office to be processed is nothing new. Those who met the requirements to become new Belizean citizens were sworn in during a ceremony this evening at the Immigration Department.