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Director questioned on Ex-Minister as Immigration Agents

The senate hearings resumed today and Immigration Director Diana Locke appeared for a third session. While for the most part the Senate Select Committee continued their line of questioning on the department’s housekeeping matters, there were a few revelations made in this morning’s hearing. The biggest of them is when Locke was asked about former Ministers acting as agents and assisting in the facilitating of processes at the department. Locke did not hesitate in confirming the on-going situation.

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“Now director the last time we visited the department we encountered at least one ex minister as you know who openly professed to be an agent and we understood from people that there is another minister that provides similar services and is frequently at the department. How do you feel about that and what if any are you doing to address this influence that they may or may not have?”

Diana Locke – Director of Immigration Department

“I don’t know that they have an influence but I do know that that staff is not happy with it. I have spoken to them I have spoken to the persons concerned, the one that you met in the parking lot does not come by very often the other one you referred to some days I wonder if he works there. I have raised this matter with my ministry because I don’t like the image that it portrays because it gives the impression that the department is facilitating the requests of the political directorate which is not the case and I have spoken to that individual he persists and says that it’s a public place and he has had a lot to say but I have had to put that aside because it is not the right thing to do. The staff has already been informed and I’m sure he’s listening to me today, the staff has already been informed that when we go to our new location that no member of the public will be allowed behind the counter in any of the areas where we have an we are taking steps to actually put finger print machines so that areas are actually restricted, that only those persons who work in those areas can access those areas. Right now the present location we are in is very difficult sometimes when I’m in my office I would look up on the screen, because we do have cameras I don’t have time to watch them very often but you do see a few people that I have begun to identify as agents when I see them often enough. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again I don’t think that it’s a healthy process I don’t like it because it gives the impression that there are some people that are more favored. Our regulations and laws require that persons appear, a family member I have no objection to a family member you coming in and doing something on behalf of a child or niece or nephew but when a person continues to be there on a regular basis clearly nobody spends that amount of time in any location for nothing. These are people who I’ve been told have been frequenting at lands, they are now at immigration; Minister Barnett has said they are not there anymore and we are taking steps. I’m trying to be nice about it and go about it the nice way but I hope that we don’t have to go, and I’m counting on my ministry to support me in ensuring that this is something that is addressed.”

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

“But with the greatest of respect director, one would think that you could clearly set areas that are off bounds to the general public.”

Diana Locke – Director of Immigration Department

“Yes.”

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“But that is not being absolutely adhered to, is that what you’re saying?”

Diana Locke – Director of Immigration Department

“Yes. Sometimes that is the case.”

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“Because of who these individuals are?”

Diana Locke – Director of Immigration Department

“Recently as I said there has only been one individual that’s very persistent and he knows who he is.”

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“We know who he is but what I’m saying to you is why is it that you feel you cannot stop him from entering beyond the frontline where the general public is supposed to be at least.”

Diana Locke – Director of Immigration Department

“Out of respect for the fact that that person was a former minister I have addressed this matter with my ministry, I cannot stop that individual if he wishes to go on the second floor to have a meeting with my CEO or Minister or whoever but I do have objections to his being in and around the office on the frequency with which he does it.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga attended today’s hearing as the pro-temp Chair in the absence of Chair Aldo Salazar. After the hearing, the media asked him to reveal who these ex ministers are but he withheld their names.

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“I don’t think the names are important I think the director knows who these persons are I think anybody that frequents and maybe you should frequent the department these person are seen on a frequent basis in there and the point remains that we still have these people walking in and out of the office so to speak shuffling papers on behalf of other persons when they should not. The director had admitted to it that it’s not a practice that she condones, the Auditor General like you rightly state has spoken sufficiently about that and I was surprised that when we visited the department last week had you come along with us you would have seen one of them but that you were told that there were two so I just think it’s a shame that people with political influence continue to participate in some practice that is not desired either by the department or recommended by the Auditor General.”

Reporter

“Do you have reasons to believe that these persons are using this influence as former ministers ?”

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“Well that is the impression that we get, certainly from speaking to people around and in the department.”

Reporter

“You did say also that one of them openly admitted to being an agent.”

Mark Lizarraga – Senator

“Yes and I think it’s something that we certainly would like to see discontinued as has been recommended by the Auditor General and has been endorsed by the director today.”