Director Of Immigration Says It's All above Board


7NewsBelize

Wed, January 18, 2012

Of course, the Director has a lot on her hands right now. She’s presiding over an office that is being besieged on a daily basis in the run-up to the close of registration. In fact, that office was open until the late hours last night working on the mad rush of applications for citizenship. Still, she’s not shrinking away from the tough questions, and that’s because she says nothing out of the way is happening – even if her staffers are processing applications ’round about midnight. She told us today that she is grateful that it’s winding down:

Ruth Meighan – Director, Immigration Department
“Unlike last week, I think that this week is a lot less hassling because, if you notice, we have less people out here, and I think it’s because we did the last set of swearing in. So, I think we are kind of getting down to the final – the last amount.”

Jules Vasquez
“Will you all – I know a naturalization process is planned for this afternoon. Is there another one planned before Friday?”

Ruth Meighan
“We have a lot of applications outstanding, Jules, and depending on the political – or my minister, I shouldn’t say political – my minister, then we decide whether we’re going to have another one.”

Marion Ali – Love News
“People have raised concerns over whether it’s just a receipt for the blood test, or the blood test result itself. What is it that you require to process that individual?”

Ruth Meighan
“Applications are accepted with several things. There needs to be a completed application form, and the requirements that we get along with that is a police report, a complete medical certificate. Medical certification means that it’s not only a blood test that you do. The person has to go to a doctor to certify that that person is medically sound. And they are asked to take Tests in TB, AIDS, and VDRL.”

Marion Ali – Love News
“So it’s not only the receipt that you rely on.”

Ruth Meighan
“No, we have a medical certificate that is given to us by a physician.”

Marion Ali – Love News
“There was a meeting here last night. Your staff – I assume that it was your staff – were working late. What was happening here?”

Ruth Meighan
“Processing of applications for nationality.”

Marion Ali – Love News
“Is it out of the norm, though, to have your members of staff working – under what arrangement is that done? Are they paid over-time?”

Ruth Meighan
“Normally if immigration officers work beyond their 8-hour day, they’re paid over-time.”

Jules Vasquez
“However, I guess the real question is, is everything that’s happening above board?”

Ruth Meighan
“It is. As I said the last time that I spoke to you, what we do is we process applications based on an individual basis. People are asked to bring certain requirements along with them. Those things are ensured within the file, before we do the processing. In some cases, we don’t even accept the application once they do not meet the requirements.”

Jules Vasquez
“Now, I see a lot of political operators about, people who are trying to get their people processed, naturalized, registered, and you know that there is a bottle neck, back log, all these things. Are these political operators a) exercising undue influence on your staff, and b) are some of them acting as paid agents of certain people to say that, ‘I can facilitate this process; I know the guy inside.’ because these things happen? There is a tremendous rush; there will be discrepancies in operation.”

Ruth Meighan
“I do not agree with you in terms of the discrepancies because we do go through due diligence in terms of the processing of the files. At the Elections and Boundaries Department – same we’re in the political party in power is the party that takes people in to get them registered.”

Jules Vasquez
“Every office has a certain capacity that it can competently manage, after that, things fall apart, and strange stuff starts happening. Are u concerned that inevitably, through no fault of anyone, you will have this kind of breakdown here, because your staff is only outfitted to handle a specific load, and this far exceeds that?”

Ruth Meighan
“What we have been doing is to work extra hours, as you all know, but in addition to that, we have some officers who are undergoing training in Belmopan. So what they do is that, they come in, and that’s the reason why I heard that they say we were here until 11:30 Last night. We had those offices assisting us with some of the applications to ensure that we have everything in order. But, Jules, in the public service, if there is a need to; we could always pool people from other areas to assist. us. And that is what we will be do at the Immigration Department. And we are only doing as much as we can do; everybody knows that. We do not do more than we can do; we just can’t.”

Jules Vasquez
“For a lot of the general public who don’t know maybe that these things happen, this seems unseemly. A lot of people cueing up to become Belizean, the haste with which they are being co expedited, processed and registered.”

Ruth Meighan
“We have applications sitting in this office from as far back as 2005, and a lot of those applications, now, are being processed. Now, whatever their reason, or whoever is behind it, I don’t know, but people are coming in for those applications, and there is no reason why do not process them. So there isn’t anything sinister going on in this department, as far as I am concerned.”

Jules Vasquez
“The then chief elections officer and seeing the mad rush that happens at registration and transfer periods, when we’re close to elections, what would you say to the uninitiated – the citizens out there now shake their head when they see all these people cueing up, this big crowd, all the political movers around?”

Ruth Meighan
“That’s an interesting question, and you are actually putting me on the spot, Jules, but what I would say basically is that this is something that we do. Immigration, elections – we register people, we process nationality. That’s it. It just so happens that at certain times, we get more people than we would normally get, but that’s basically it. I really don’t see any other perspective, other than the fact that we work really hard around this time.”

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