On Friday, the Executive Director of UNIBAM, Caleb Orozco, wrote to the CEO of Immigration stating that quote, “the immigration department reeks of homophobia and transphobia”. The claim was made after the visa applications of eight Haitians were reportedly denied. In his letter, Orozco wrote quote, “It seems in preparation for a regional LGBT meeting in Belize to occur from the 11th November to 17th with partners COC Netherland and P.E.T.A.L of Belize, the Belizean consulate in Haiti has denied entry of our Haitian Colleagues to enter Belize. Our partners started the process early, after waiting 2 months the consulate denied entry.” End of quote.
“Hopefully from there we can get some kind of answer as to what was the bottleneck between the Haitian Council and the Belize Embassy in the Dominican Republic, why was there a two-month delay in confirming the application process and three why does it take two months to get a visa application to Belize. It’s very difficult to understand an environment if you don’t understand the virulent nature of Haiti and the context under which people can use bureaucratic processes to undermine the freedom of movement and travel. It’s very easy to have a bureaucratic response like ‘I never got the application.’ without first honestly examining where the bottleneck occurred if any and to clarify lessons learned as to how things can be made easier.”
Responding to Orozco was the Immigration Director, Diana Locke who denied the claims saying quote, “In no way, this department is seeking to prevent supporters of the LGBT community from visiting Belize and we certainly do not wish to engage in any negative exchanges with you or the persons attending this conference.” End of quote.
“Granted she may have denied but I can also say that the department denied in 2007 there was a transphobic response to clearing a plane of Russian Transgender Individuals and then deporting that person back. I can also say there is no problem with immigration passing homophobic remarks to Louis Medina who was a Venezuelan this year in June and promptly deporting him back lying to him in regards to the invitation letter which said who would be sponsoring his trip and then requiring him to hold a sum of money which is not asked of other visitors. I can also see that the front line desk officers and people who take applications for residency do not carry any transphobic or homophobic attitudes with regards to dealing with our people but they don’t collect any institutional bias in their operation, they’ve never had an assessment of the level of homophobia in the immigration department, they’ve never needed to deal with whispers and stares going through their offices.”
The Visa Vetting Committee is expected to meet on Wednesday to review the application.