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Senate Committee probe Director of Immigration

The public interrogation of the current Director of Immigration Diana Locke lasted a little over an hour yesterday. Members of the Senate Select Committee drilled Locke on a number of issues including the publication of the list of foreigners who have been approved to receive Belizean visas.

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“People in the gazette, now these are people that have received nationality or are applying for nationality?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“There are two lists, there is a list that before the applications are processed within the department once everything has been fulfilled it has been vetted it is then gazetted. Following that gazetting it then goes to the Nationality Scrutinizing Committee for those applications to be reviewed. From there once it’s approved and it’s signed by the Minister the names are gazetted again to the end to say whenever there is a swearing in that list is then final.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“Thank you that’s what I thought but the reason I’m asking is, what is the circulation of the gazette, do you know? I would suspect that it’s very limited.”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“Its very limited. We do have the list published on our website and also on our Facebook page, whenever its gazetted we place those on our website.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“And are you receiving feedback from the general public?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“I have not seen anyone writing to us or calling us to make any observation on any of those names that are there. We’ve gotten letters on applications which are pending, maybe somebody has a change of heart or they want us to know that ‘I’m no longer married to someone.’ but that is a domestic issue and it has to be looked at in the context of the complaint.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“The reason I raise it is that I’ve been seeing these lists in the gazettes and I remember when the law was being amended we were told that it’s so the citizenry can have input into whether they know person A from village B so that our citizens can know who is applying to be a national of our country and in fact if they’ve been here for five years but it was for interaction with the citizenry so that the citizens of this country could feel safe and secure that nationality was not being handed or right left and center would you agree?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“Yes, I think that was the intention.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga

“Well than I would suggest director that perhaps we need to seek to either advertise the fact that the lists are available on your website or facebook page or whatever but certainly to invite the citizenry of our country to become active in this process which was the purpose originally to have more participation by the citizenry by commenting like a last check and balance. Do you agree?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“It’s something that we can look at if you were to put those in the newspaper there is a significant cost unfortunately we don’t have a budget for that but we can certainly look at other options of having them on some of the community billboard kind of things to publicize those names.”

Following the same line of questioning, Senator Eamon Courtenay asked Locke what a member of the public should do with the gazetted list of persons set to receive a Belizean visa.

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“I guess if you have a concern about that individual.”

Senator Eamon Courtney

“How do you know. Wong Hong Kim, Resident 10 Oriole Avenue Belmopan. How does that help anybody in the public?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“Good question. I don’t know unless you know that somebody is applying and you see their name in the gazette I think most people have been using it, persons who have applied for nationality have been using it to check to see where their file is at because that is the comments that I get back that once you appear in the gazette list you know you are close to the end but I think the department had publicized the reason for that at time of the amendment all of those were publicized….”

Senator Eamon Courtney

“I saw it then and the point I’m asking to you because your evidence a short while ago proves the point, no one has given you any feedback to the committee aside from the fact that the circulation is so limited even if you see you live in Unitedville and they say ‘John Smith applying for nationality.” what are you to do and call immigration and aks for who? What do you expect the city to do?”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“If there is a concern because of a security issue…”

Eamon Courtney, Senator

“Okay if you see a list that has ten people from one nationality and I feel there are enough people of that nationality in Belize so I call in to immigration and I say ‘no more passports should be issued to people of this nationality.’ what is going to happen.”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“I don’t think you can accept  a complaint like that.”

Senator Eamon Courtney

“The point I make and I don’t expect you to respond, and when the Minister comes I will ask him about this; It is a farce. Giving people comfort when in truth and in fact your committee knows now that that has provided no information to your committee for your committee to make a better decision. It is not a tool that anyone should be comfortable with. As I say I don’t expect you to comment when the Minister comes I will take it up with him.”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“I don’t know that it was a tool to be used to..”

Senator Eamon Courtney

“You heard what the senator said. That is what we were told, the people could become involved and the people would see these names and nobody could get nationality without their names going there and I say to you again if Wong Hong Kim’s name was on that list it would have made absolutely no difference the same thing would have happened.”

Director of Immigration, Diana Locke

“That’s true.”