‘Silly Season’ – that is the term used when a major election is approaching, the campaign amps up and political strategies unfold. Yesterday we saw, what was perhaps the start of the season, when dozens of Central American migrants gathered at the office of UDP’s Standard Bearer, Dianne Finnegan, in the hopes of getting their nationality papers expedited. Love News interviewed a few of those who stood in line and found out that the speeding up of their papers was the general intention of why they were in the long queue. Minister of Immigration, Beverly Williams, explained it differently to us earlier today, saying that the people in line were merely a part of an advisory session.
Hon. Beverly Williams, Minister of Immigration: “She asked me to look at advising some people that were in her office. It appears that it traveled just as fast as pollination does, it blows over to all over the place, and she had a convergence of persons in her office. I was not aware that that happened. Those people came there to find out about their status. Now they’re asking me about the procedure and the procedure is very very clear it’s well defined in law. If you qualify for nationality you would have to fill out a form, it’s vetted, once it meets all the requirements it is then sent to the gazette to be published for six weeks; that’s embedded in the law so we cannot avoid the six weeks process in law. After it comes from the gazette there is a nationality scrutinizing committee that reviews every single file, that reviews every single file before those files come to me for signature. There is not a single document that is going to be fast tracked. I thought that doing that for the people there rather than having a convergence on the office, whether its Belmopan or Belize City was a good thing because you would not have the crowds there. Those people will be advised what to do, once they know what it is that they are supposed to do they then come in as they are completed and there is no crowding, and submit their documents and their processes in the normal frame f things.”
While Minister Williams referred to it as an advisory session, it is interesting to note that before the men and women went in line, they were over at the photo studio nearby taking their passport pictures to accompany the forms they had. Williams went on to state that majority of those in line is a part of the backlog of applications at the Immigration Department.
Hon. Beverly Williams, Minister of Immigration: “A number of backlogs, and we in immigration are proud to say that we have cleared numerous amount of backlogs. If those people were there for fourteen years you need to come in, come to the immigration office, find out what is wrong. I get a sense that people are afraid because they are of the belief that immigration has this big stick approach., I’ve indicated that this is not so but we will follow the rules. People don’t want to come sometimes it’s because they are illegal immigrants and they are fearful that they will be put outside of our borders but if you qualify we will do everything to allow you to regularize yourself. There is nothing out of the ordinary happening in immigration. Now that session was already set up and it’s simply an advisory session, no documents will be handed out, no official distribution of anything, it cannot be if it does not go before the scrutinizing committee.”
As we noted yesterday, Minister Williams will be meeting with those persons on Monday. In past elections, the issue of expediting nationality papers for migrants has been brought forth by various political parties. It is a strategy that allows Standard Bearers to pad the voters’ list with the expectation that those they assist will vote for them in the election.