Former Immigration Director admits nationality fraud ahead of 2012 elections

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Updated: January 25, 2017

In 2012, the United Democratic Party won a second consecutive term in the General elections held in March. The election was called early by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and according to the Election and Boundaries Department, 178,054 voters registered for the 2012 election. Out of that number 108,753 cast their ballots. At that time, the People’s United Party would not concede defeat stating that the election was not free and fair. The PUP complained that UDP Ministers and officials fast tracked the nationality applications for immigrants to cast their votes for them in the 2012 elections. That particular issue was brought up at today’s Senate hearing by PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay and Senator Mark Lizzarraga since Ruth Meighan was the Immigration Director during that time. Meighan conceded that the expedited process for immigrants to obtain a Belizean nationality was for them to vote in the 2012 General Elections.

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“There is only the swearing in records that will indicate how many were sworn in at a particular time, and what was the number the magic number that you would have swearing ins when you had how many people?

 Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“There was no special number as far as I am aware.”

Senator Mark Lizzarraga

“Who would decide when you would have swearing ins?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Normally the Minister would say whether or not we had enough to do a swearing in and then we would proceed with it.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“You were director in 2012.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“You were aware that there was an election in 2012.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“ Yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“General election?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Yes

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Are you aware that there was a unusual amount of persons who got nationality shortly before that general election?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“ Yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Are you aware that Ministers were heavily involved in speeding up the processing of nationality for many individuals going up to that election?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I am aware that the ministers were trying to get people processed for nationality during that period.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“On an expedited basis?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Well the department did process a lot of applications that would have maybe taken a little bit longer during that period.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So the answer is yes, on an expedited basis and you are aware that the purpose for that was in order for these people to be registered to vote?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I believe that was the reason why.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“ And you were director at the time?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I was director at the time.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Are you aware that quite a number of those persons who got nationality their files were incomplete?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“That is what I noted from the report, yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Those persons whose files were not complete did not qualify at that time to get Belizean nationality.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Those persons did not qualify but the file that was presented and I could clearly remember my Minister coming back and telling me, because we were concerned that they were requesting a lot of files and we said that we have to ensure that all the applicants meet the requirement for nationality and that was clearly stated throughout the department and so any files that came to us for approval, they were presented as qualified applicants.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“You now know Ms.Meighan that many of them were fraudulently prepared?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

They did not qualify for nationality.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Yes according to the report.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“And obviously they did not qualify to be registered to vote.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Yes.