Former Immigration Director highlights irregularities within the Department

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Updated: January 25, 2017

Former Immigration Director, Ruth Meighan was back before the Senate Special Select Committee today. Committee members grilled Meighan with questions which she had difficulty answering to their liking. Ruth Meighan is now the CEO in the Ministry of Transport and NEMO but between October 2010 and February 2013, she had been appointed as the Director of Immigration.  The Auditor General’s Special Visa and other findings Report on the Immigration and Nationality Department covers the period from 2011 to 2013 which means that much of the discrepancies happened under her watch.  After the Immigration scandal broke, Meighan’s signature appeared on several passports even after she was removed from the post. According to Meighan, her signature had been electronically copied and pasted on passports by the senior immigration officer. This was part of a system put in place.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Could a passport be lawful issued without your approval?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“The approval that, let me see how I should say this. The application of a passport is done in the passport section, my approval of the passport was my signature on the electronic system so I had no involvement from application to approval of a passport.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“I will repeat my question; could a passport be lawfully issued without your approval as director of immigration?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

No.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Right. Could nationality be issued lawfully without your approval?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Nationalities are issued based on my recommendation.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So the answer to the question is what?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

If I make a recommendation to the minister who approves…

Senator Eamon Courtenay

Could it lawfully be issued without your recommendation?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

I am not sure.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Pertinent because last week you said that passports could be issued without your approval.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“As the director of immigration my approval was the signature on the system that is it, that is my approval. I don’t have any kind of involvement with application of passport from the time of application to the time of issue. The director of immigration’s signature is on the passport system and that is the approval signature.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Whilst you were director of immigration it was possible for your signature to be put on a passport without your knowledge?”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“That is the system that we had in place and that is the system that I met there and is the system that I left there.”

Meighan outlined the process of approving a passport.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Upon application the information that is presented to the officer collecting the data is inputted into the system and it goes through the level of accepting the application, entering the data, the verification by officers and the final approval by the senior immigration officer. “

 

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So just to be clear as far as you are concerned there was no step of the process where the director of immigration was required to be involved with respect to the issuance of passports?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

No.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“And as a matter of fact, were you involved?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

No.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So the earlier answer that you gave that passports could not be lawfully issued without your approval is inaccurate?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Well I guess you would say yes.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Ms. Meighan I need you to take this matter seriously.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I am taking it seriously.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Right well you can’t move from yes to no with the ease with which you are doing it.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“What I am trying to let you understand is what I understood I was doing then and that is what I am doing. I am not trying to make it seem as though I am saying yes then and no now, you are asking the question and I am responding to it the way I am capable of responding to it and I am saying to you that that was what happened while I was there and yes that was the process.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“So the question I’m going to ask again; could passports be lawfully issued in Belize without the approval of the director of immigration?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I am not certain because my understanding from getting there and up to leaving, is that with my signature on the system as the director, that that was the director’s approval. So the processing of the passport can be done without my knowledge but with my signature on the passport I believe it was a genuine approved passport.”

According to Meighan, she was only involved in emergency passport applications and special visa application.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“With respect to countries like China, India, etc. which required special approval could those visas be issued without the approval of the director of immigration?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

Should not be issued without the approval of the director.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“I’ll put the question differently than; could those visas be lawfully issued without the approval of the director of immigration.

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“That requirement for special approval was within the procedural policies of the department and I believe that those should have come to the director for approval and should not have been issued without the director’s approval.

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“Right, so just to be clear, with respect to the special list, the approval of the director ought to have at all times to be obtained.”

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“Yes.”

Senator Eamon Courtenay

“And implicit in what you are saying is that there were times when visas were issued without the approval of you when you were director of immigration?

Ruth Meighan – Former Immigration Director

“I don’t know, I cannot say that.”