Harsher Penalties for Immigration Offenses Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00

Senator Godwil HulseSenator Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration, Labour, Local Government, Rural Development and NEMO, has announced proposed changes to the process for becoming a Belizean citizen. Minister Hulse is well aware of the weaknesses in the system and has raised concerns about it long before he was appointed to the Cabinet. Soon after he was appointed Minister of Immigration, he reformed the Passport issuance system to limit the potential for fraud and under table dealings. His next objective was to improve the Nationality section of the Immigration Department by first starting with a review of the system. However, in wake of the Wong Hong Kim experience, Senator Hulse expedited that review and announced changes on Thursday, October 10th.         

A nationality scrutinizing committee will be created to ensure that “never again the nationality request and files be scrutinized only by the personnel in the department”. Instead, every nationality request will be reviewed for approval by the committee consisting of representatives from the Belize Council of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the Attorney General's Ministry and the Chief Executive Officers in the Ministries of Immigration, Human Development and National Security. The Director of Immigration will also serve as an ex-officio member.

The nationality form will also be revised. Presently, the form is a certificate that features only the Minister’s signature and date on which it was signed. A picture of the applicant is then attached. The new certificate will have the profile picture of the applicant scanned into the document. It will feature the signatures of the Director of Immigration and Nationality, the Officer in charge of Nationality and Permanent Residence, the Minister of Immigration and Nationality, the Commissioner of the Supreme Court who administered the oath of allegiance and the individual who will be taking the oath of allegiance. The date of each signature will be recorded as well. There will also be a finger print image of the applicant. 

Senator Hulse said, “There are those who believe that the Belizean Nationality and Passport is a commodity to be traded on the open market to any bidder. To those we say this game has ended.” He announced that the immigration act will be amended to increase penalties for wrongdoing from $500 to $50,000. Hulse said that since large sums of money are paid for such documents the offenders may be able to pay the fine; therefore, the offense warrants a penalty of fine and confinement. Those who violate the provisions of the nationality and passport act will also be sentenced to a term not less than five and up to fifteen years in prison.