Many Belizeans using the northern border at Santa Elena have complained about having to check in at the Immigration Department, even though they are not leaving the country. One man who has been very vocal in voicing his displeasure is Rene Cuello. He has been urging officials to revisit the existing law so Belizeans who will be going to the Corozal Free Zone or the casinos do not have to check in with Immigration and having to get their passports stamped. To further get his message across, Cuello is spearheading an excursion to the border point this weekend. He told us more about it.
“The objective is to show the attorney that we as Belizeans have a constitutional right to leave and enter Belize, that is the objective; to show the country of Belize that they can’t be chancing people, harassing people. Sometimes people get there and their permit is expired or it is full of stamps and they return you. It has happened to a lot of people and that is the objective of it and not to be afraid to come into your country is one of them because it has happened to me; I went across the border and when I was coming back I was afraid to come into my own country because of the change of administration at the immigration point.”
Cuello said it is his hope that the law will be changed to take into account the inconvenience Belizeans have to go through.
“I hope that we get rid of the stamping system that we have. It’s an old law that has been in place since 1949 and no government had done anything about it. We the Belizean people we suffer when we go to the border, they harass us, they have arrested Belizeans and put them in cells because of a stamp. How can you do your own people that coming in their country. You are supposed to be protected by your country when you come in not be harassed or threatened to be put in a cell and charged. They charge you $1,000 we want to get rid of that law.”
We spoke with an Immigration official who told us while he understands the concerns, officers are only abiding by the law which specifies that anyone crossing the departure control point must present themselves. He further stated that the location of the immigration building is not ideal however they must work with what they have. For Belizeans who have an issue with the many stamps in their passports, he recommends they get a border crossing card.