Senior Immigration questioned about nationality applications

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Updated: February 1, 2017

Last Wednesday at the Senate Special Select Committee hearing, former Immigration Director Ruth Meighan was questioned about the approval of more than two thousand nationality applications prior to the 2012 General Elections. In her testimony, Meighen suggested that these nationality certificates were fraudulently issued for the 2012 Elections. That matter was brought up again when Senators Aldo Salazar and Eamon Courtenay questioned Senior Immigration Officer, Gordon Wade, about it.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Is it correct to suggest that the majority of these files were irregular?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Irregular?”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Well, that is the suggestion made by former Director Meighn in response to the line of questioning from Senator Courtney.

 Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“As I mentioned a while ago, at that time,section ten was basically what was stated here: that you needed to have been ordinarily residing in Belize for five years and at the Director’s level or the Ministerial level, me as an Immigration Officer says that I believe five ordinarily that means legally residing in Belize for five years. In the Director’s and the Minister’s eye, having children going to school, living in Belize, having other Belizeans attesting to knowing you for certain time meant to them five ordinary years living in Belize so I don’t know if that is considered an irregularity. And that’s why I mentioned when the Senator asked me about former directors talking about a culture which I said I couldn’t say what she was referring to but being in the department and my view being that you must show me five legal years but because of the way the law was structured they can interpret it to be having three children living here, having Belizean attesting to knowing them here if that would be considered irregular then I can’t say that. That’s their interpretation and that was the leverage they had.”

Senator Aldo Salazar

“What I want to be clear with, in relation to these two thousand one hundred and ten names which at paragraph two ten is mentioned says, we were unable to request and examine all of those nationality files. I believe they examined seven, they were unable to request and examine all of those files. Was there anything that you did that prevented them from requesting and examining those files?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“No sir. They were people that were sworn in.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“These were people who were sworn in when ?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“During that period that they were talking about prior to the two thousand twelve general elections.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“So a list was prepared of two thousand one hundred ten people sworn in, in the period prior to the election.”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Prior to the election..”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“And the auditor general is saying that they were not able for whatever reason to look at all these files. Are these files still available?

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“They are still available at the records.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“So they can be requested and the Auditor General, if she wants them, can go and inspect these files to verify whether or not the people qualified for nationality.

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Yes sir.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“But specifically, it is your evidence that you are aware that a number of these specific files were approved on the basis of an interpretation of section 10 with which you disagree.

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Exactly.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“Right and it was the Director and or the Minister above you, who looked at that ordinarily resident and they put an interpretation on it which is not an interpretation that is consistent with your twenty seven years’ experience?”

Gordon Wade – Senior Immigration Officer

“Right.”

Senator Eamon Courteney

“That’s what I wondered.

Senator Mark Lizarraga was not present for today’s hearing.