US upgrades Belize’s Capacity to Track Migration Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00

Immigration boothBelize launched its Personal Identification and Registration System during a ceremony at the Phillip Goldson International Airport on Friday, July 12th. Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration, immigration officials and representatives of the United States Government were present to witness Belize’s move towards 21st Century border management. Hon. Godwin Hulse said, “When I walked in to see the hardware that we have established - lovely booths, etc. - I felt like I was entering Miami.”

Those who have travelled to the United States will be familiar with the procedures that are now standard at the PGIA. Immigration Officer Jessica Heusner explained that when an individual presents their passport, it is scanned and the person’s photograph and bio-data shows up on the system. Just as it is done at border points in the United States, the immigration officer takes a photo of the traveler and scans their fingerprints. Hulse said, “We have come a long way from Stanley Field Airport (previous name of our major airport) when there was a chinchi little building.” He said Belize was “the easiest country to enter and leave” but with the new system and better trained immigration officials he issued “a warning to those who may want to enter this beautiful country to do things that they're not suppose to do because we will catch you”.  

The project was financed by the United States Government through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) at a cost of $1 million. According to Margaret Hawthorne, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, “The International Organization for Migration customized the Personal Identification and Registration System for Belize and trained local officials in practical and theoretical aspects of computers, data collection and passport verification procedures.” The system will be utilized at all air, land and sea entry points, except the cruise ship terminal in Belize City.

Minister Hulse acknowledged the fact that Belize is slowly becoming a major transit point for human trafficking. He said, “That is what we are trying to detect.” In many cases of human trafficking, individuals enter Belize legally and eventually skip the country without officials knowing. Hulse said, “This system allows us now to check on those leaving so we can know who has over- stayed their time, who has skipped the country illegally and who is going where.” Though the technological upgrade is of great importance, Hulse said the security of Belize’s border ultimately depends on the men and women in uniform. He said, “It always resides in human beings - no matter how improved the hardware and the software is - it's the people that make the difference.”