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Immigration Minister drilled by Senate Select Committee

The Special Senate Select Committee convened today and appearing before the committee is Senator Godwin Hulse, Substantive Minister of Immigration. Senator Hulse had said back in May that he was looking forward to appearing before the Committee to clear up doubts and point out improvements that have been implemented in the department since the scandals erupted. Before the Committee commenced their questioning, Senator Hulse made a statement in which he outlined the events that took place since June 2012, when he was assigned the Immigration and National portfolio. At the end of his statement, Senator Hulse apologized for the scandals that have happened in the department.


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“Mr. Chairman as Minister responsible constitutionally for the Department of Immigration and Nationality during the period of the revelation of atrocities I do apologize to the people of Belize for any damage done to our identity as Belizean people by persons within the Department entrusted with safeguarding our patronage. However, we did not sit on our laurels and as indicated above we took a vigorous process to try to set in place some system to correct these wrongs and to prevent recurrence as far as is humanly possible. I do thank you for your indulgence and I stand ready to respond to your questions and queries.”

At the start of the questioning, Senator Hulse was asked what he thought made Belize’s documentation so attractive that the department has been riddled with scandal.


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“Mr. Chair that calls for some speculation and I won’t speculate but what I can say is….”

Senator Mark Lizarraga,

“I’m calling on your experience; you’ve been there for a while.”


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“What I can say is that yes there are two pairs to that response. The first is I have heard, I have absolutely no evidence, but I have heard of people paying to get these things done. There is a simple fee to become a national and so I always wondered myself why would anybody pay anybody to do something that has a simple fee and straightforward process. The second part is that there has been a lot of questions of the proliferation of businesses particularly by Asians in Belize which called for some speculation, why would it be so attractive? To be honest with you I undertook to try to get an answer for that through several quarters but it is difficult to come up with an answer because some of the question and some of the statements that I have heard would involve the Financial Intelligence Unit investigating, the Central Bank investigating and other agencies investigating. The question that in fact perhaps it was to solicit cheap labor I know in the case of Indians who have also applied to come to Belize they have applied for numerous work permits and have been granted work permits. In the case of Chinese to be specific of Asians the amount applying for work permits were minimal and so I could only view the visitors as just that, visitors to Belize, prospective investors possibly and for the most part recommended as family members, friends etc. As we know it’s a large population the issue that troubled me of course is that Chinese is the world’s second-largest economy a very highly developed society and I could not see for the life of me what the attraction would be specifically to come to Belize more than of course perhaps to invest, to earn property and to have a foothold in the country as we have read happening in the Caribbean and also in African companies.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“Minister I put it to you that why would somebody pay for services that are clearly outlined and the fees are clearly established its obvious I think the answer is that persons were paying because they did not qualify. So they were seeking false documents.”

Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“Yes, but your question was why would they seek but the fact that they paid was because clearly, they wanted to do something- there are only two reasons to my mind that someone pays and involved in any corrupt activity one is to expedite a process and one is the circumvent a process. In the case of expediting a process for example passports we took care of that by providing an expedited fee so you don’t have to go to any staff; in the case of nationality, we didn’t obviously because there is nothing to expedite that process beyond following the regulations. Even staying in the country once you have applied the law is very clear you are subject to remain in the country as long as it takes for your documentation to be processed so there is no urgency and that is you and your dependents there is no urgency to leave the country once you have applied so I could not see paying to expedite that process in nationalities so clearly it has to be the latter which is to pay to get a process done for which you did not qualify.”